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CD Feature/ The Melvins: "Nude with Boots"

img  Tobias
There are artists who claim to never actually read reviews of their own work. The Melvins, on the other hand, probably spend hours sifting through the literary nonsense spouted by WebZines, PrintZines, FanZines and cultural supplements of contemporary-minded and so-called progressive newspapers. You can easily imagine them chuckling away at yet another senseless attempt at making sense of their latest album, which comes by the name of “Nude with Boots”, a title which, as always, can be intellectually interpreted as a statement on our society’s dishonest stance towards sexuality or, more intuitively, as a rhythmically cool inside-joke.

So, what is it this time: Sludge, Grind, Doom, Drone, Heavy, Lofi, Rock, Punk, Metal, Jazz, Soundscape? Experimental, conservative, accessible, confrontational, hip, hop, to-the-point or blurred? Admittably, the band have had their feet, or indeed their entire bodies in all of them, been crowned the kings of almost any genre the underground has developed over the past few years and cited as an influence by Nirvana and bands whose names have already exited the building through the backdoor of history. To anyone expecting yet another revalation or a new testament, this album must therefore seem to be marking time.

“Nude with Boots”, after all, excells in the most trivial format popular music has ever created: Songs. Admittedly, its mantra-like repetitions, askewly polyphonic vocal textures, adjuratory exorcisms and spectral melodic lines rip through the static corridors of verse and chorus with an iron broom, but their effect is the same: Locking the listener in a groove of expectation and fulfillment, of linearity and relentless temporal acceleration. “The Kicking Machine”’s three-minute full-throttle Punk thrust and “Dog Island”’s hypnotic, halucinogetic hum are harsh as hell, but cleverly catchy at the same time.

That, of course, is where the Pop aspirations end. Most of the material here is dusty, desert-dry Stoner Rock. Based on cathartic riffing and tormentingly tight performances, surreal and swingingly syncronised like some kind of brutal ballet, the focus is on the gravitational pull of the Guitars, on the smallest of variations on and deviations from their painfully addictive and dreamily distorted groove.

“The Smiling Cobra” is just one example for a host of tracks written from the perspective of a schizophrenic cowboy sporting crocodile-leather boots, wearing Elvis-sunglasses and spending far too much time in the blistering heat. Lyrics mostly deal with “little horned animals” and dwarf-like men giving bizarre orders from underneath the earth, but bewilderingly nothing seems or sounds contrived or comical.

As the album draws towards a close, the band can not quite escape the seduction of fraying out into all kinds of directions after all. If pieces in the first half of “Nude with Boots” hinted at Ennio Morricone and Prog, quotes in the final minutes go out to Independent Pop, Krautrock, Noise and Apocalyptic Metal.

A motley crew you say? Not really and this is the most astounding thing about the record: As splintered as it must seem to stores desperately trying to file it under something, it is completely coherent and of a piece on a perceptional level. “Nude with Boots” is over-the-top fun, hillariously heavy and satirically serious - and it’s still Rock n Roll to me.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: The Melvins
Homepage: Ipecac Records

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