Rhythm & Views

The Melvins

The power and fun contained in the Melvins' music derives from the manner in which the legendary 18-year-old band--originally from Aberdeen, Wash., and veterans of the Seattle scene--embraces extreme hard-rock's hyperbole, cliche and melodrama with equal amounts of tongue-in-cheeky satire and unironic love of the form.

Riding the momentum of two new CD releases, the Melvins will return to Tucson to assault listeners Wednesday night at Club Congress.

Hostile Ambient Takeover could well be the trio's finest studio recording--surpassing even the three mid-'90s major-label releases on Atlantic Records and The Trilogy, three separate albums released during a nine-month creative outburst in 1999 and 2000.

Arena-proportion maneuvers, avant-garde compositional complexity and proverbial raw power come together in a bundle of instant Melvins classics. For instance, "Dr. Geek" melds rip-it-up punk velocity and a Southern boogie-rock manifesto, and "The Fool, the Meddling Idiot" wallows gloriously in the sort of Stooges-style sludge that launched a thousand post-modern grunge-if-you-must-call-it-that bands.

"The Brain Center at Whipples" twists Black Sabbath and Deep Purple into a strutting homage to the heavy-metal gods, as if heard through a dadaistic filter. The dynamics of the menacingly slow, 16-minute closing track, "The Anti-Vermin Seed," are actually quite beautiful. Throughout the album, guitarist-vocalist King Buzzo's sarcastic wail can only be described as a friendly hellhound growl--if you're in on the joke.

Die-hard fans need not worry about the use of the word "ambient" in the album's title; the ambience created by this album is a towering Babylon of sonic architecture as aggressive and joyfully unrestrained as the Melvins have yet created.

The beauty-in-noise aesthetic continues on Millennium Monsterwork by the Fantomas/Melvins Big Band, a terrific live set recorded by the combined groups in San Francisco on Dec. 31, 2000. Fantomas is the virtuoso cut-and-paste fright-rock group fronted by singer Mike Patton, of Faith No More, Tomahawk and Mr. Bungle fame.

Together, the two bands (seven musicians in total) whip up a frenzy of stop-on-a-dime riffage, proto-metal storm-trooper stomp, howling psychodrama and occasional flourishes of electronics, Chinese opera and Indian raga influences. All this over the course of an uninterrupted fugue of 18 songs.

There's always a delicious tension between the out-there blizzards of sound and the devil's own ass-kicking contained herein. It's the sort of musical anarchy that recalls John Zorn's Naked City, but also impressive is the cohesion of this large group. Not the sort of thing to play as background music (at your next quilting party, say) but Millennnium Monsterwork will reward adventurous listeners who know how to pay attention.

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