The Melvins formed in the early 80s by Buzz Osborne. Osborne is considered the “Godfather” of Grunge as he helped guide a high school friend named Kurt Cobain into music. Cobain once admitted during an interview that Buzz introduced him to Punk rock. The current drummer for the Melvins, Dale Crover played on some of the earliest Nirvana recordings. As well, Osborne introduced Dave Grohl to Cobain when he was looking for another drummer.
Once Grunge became popular, there were a great many acts to garner mainstream attention afterward, perhaps the most prestigious being Foo Fighters. America would not know of any such bands had it not been for the Melvins. Osborne and Crover are the roots of the Grunge tree.
The reason most people don’t know anything of the aforementioned is due to the
band’s penchant for avoiding larger venues in favor of enjoying cult-status acclaim.
Accurately reviewing the Melvins is no easy task. In fact, it’s overwhelmingly daunting due to this band having such a vast history and a prolific contribution to music. Since 1986, not only has the group released an album every two years, sometimes two or more albums were released in one year. The discography is now well past 20 records. In some cases, the only way to become familiar with so many records is to settle in on Spotify for a few afternoons and binge listen.
The Melvins’ newest record, A Walk With Love And Death, was released July 7th. According to the official website, it’s the band’s first-ever double album with the first LP titled Death and second LP Love. Death is an album; Love is the soundtrack to a short film also called A Walk With Love and Death. Just like the LPs of the past, the songs on the latest collection range in length from more than six minutes to little more than one minute.
“Black Heath”, the opening track on Death, is the longest on the entire album and is so lengthy due to the patience heard in the tempo. It just creeps along. There’s a feeling of anticipation that’s it’s building up to something. That eventually it will speed up, or a big blast of distortion will hit. However, it doesn’t. There is intricacy in the guitar work, but the pace never changes and as a result, leaves the listener hanging. The same can be said about the next track “Sober-Delic (Acid Only).” At 6:03, it’s a drawn-out piece like something from Tool’s 10,000 Days. The vocals spark the most interest on this one however.
Things eventually perk up with “Euthanasia.” It’s almost instantly more energetic.
This is the slow Doom/Sludge rock sound that fans love.
The Melvins’ pop songwriting capabilities show on “What’s Wrong With You?” But
this is not the kind of pop heard in typical 90s Grunge. What’s displayed here is
more of a Garage rock sound from the 60s.
After nine tracks, Death comes to a close and the soundtrack second half begins. Like most songs from this band, the first half are uninhibited, free, and have incredible grooves. Lyrically, the tracks are of a comical nature. Osborne doesn’t typically write from a stern point of view. As always, he seems to be having fun and not taking life too seriously while laying down some impressive instrumentals.
The grooves on Death are good enough that they would still need to be heard even
if all nine recordings were just instrumentals.
Love, the second LP, is the soundtrack to director Jesse Nieminen’s short. It kicks off with
abstract noise akin to a school lunchroom but sprinkled with some musical notes. Most of the tracks are ambient mixtures of speech, sounds, and instruments. The only actual songs are “Give It to Me” and “Scooba.” And those do not sound like Melvins songs, even though we know the Melvins wrote them. From all accounts, part two is not intended to be part of a live set but merely a film score.
Love would make for a nice listen to accompany a hallucinogenic trip and it’s reasonable to deduce that the central plot of the film may involve drug use. It’s possible to just drift away listening to oddity of it all.
It’s important to note, the Melvins are not a Grunge band. The Melvins are what inspired Grunge. Long ago, this act’s earliest fans took the muddy tones that still exist on the above-discussed album and combined them with Beatles-esque pop, although there’s not much pop on a Melvins’ album. There’s mostly just mud.