LIVE REPORT: The Melvins

Toby Cook reports from a sold out Electric Ballroom

Photo by Samantha Hayley

Remember when MTV used to show actual music videos, and shows about actual music, not just commission a seemingly interminable slew of ‘reality’ shows set in interchangeable locations with interchangeable casts made up of the sort of fake-tanned human detritus you’d find fucking and puking in the bogs of a Walkabout? No? Well trust me, it did. Just before Western civilisation collapsed surely one of MTV’s most brilliant moments was when they sent the Melvins’ Buzz Osborne Mansion shopping, armed with only his "music rep’" as a means of purchase. "I’m considered the godfather of grunge… one of the biggest musical movements of the last 10 years – I’m the originator" he comically pleads to a bemused estate agent. "Kurt Cobain, the famous Kurt Cobain, loves my band!"

And you know what? It’s all fucking true. It wasn’t just grunge either – try spending 10 minutes with Eyehategod guitarist Jimmy Bower without him telling you of his deep love for, and his teenage desire to "rip off" the Melvins. If there was any justice in the world, now, some 20 to 25 years later, Osborne and his long time band mate, drummer Dale Crover, would actually be able to buy one of those Beverly Hills mansions.

There is no justice in the world, though, we all know that, and whilst the likes of the re-formed Alice In Chains continue to shit all over their dubious legacy on festival stages, in front of tens of thousands of people around the globe, and the likes of Bower’s Down deservedly do the same, Osborne and Crover still cruise the circuit that brings them tonight to London’s 1,100 capacity Electric Ballroom (and sell it out, a feat, if rumours are to be believed, they could have achieved at least twice over). Yet there can be little doubt that fans and the band themselves would have it any other way – the Melvins don’t need mansions and royalty cheques, their boundless creativity and their constant evolution is exactly why we love them. Whether it’s teaming up with Jared Warren and Cody Willis of Big Business (as they are tonight) or with the Butthole Surfers Jeff Pinkus and Paul Leary (as they did for last year’s excellent Hold It In) you get the impression that the band are exactly where they want to be, doing exactly what they want to be doing, and tonight is a stunning yet weirdly modest, hour-and-a-half long celebration of that.

Things don’t get off to the best of starts – Big Business, acting as a support for themselves, in a sense, seem to be suffering from the effects of playing twice a night throughout the tour, and here in London, on the last night, whilst the duo blister through numbers like ‘No Vowels’, it’s a perfunctory 30 minutes at best. By the time the pair return however – Warren’s afro now inexplicably contained beneath a turban – and fuse together with Messrs Osborne and Crover to create a sort of alt. metal Megazord that is perhaps the most direct and uncompromisingly perfect incarnation of the group since Joe Preston when bonkers, all fears are belayed. During the likes of ‘The Water Glass’ and ‘Evil New War’ the energy expelled by the quartet beams out over the packed hall in such charged, furious waves that the glazed expressions on some of those near this scribe suggest little comprehension of what’s happening in front of them just complete and utter immersion.

Tonight Osborne and Warren are not at their most communicative however; its is all about relentless rock and noise. New number ‘Bride Of Crankenstein’ is about as ‘silly’ as it ever gets, and no matter how many knowing rock poses are thrown, the seriousness is never in question. By the time closer, the superb ‘A History Of Bad Men’ rolls around – with Osborne mysteriously departing promptly at its finish to allow a cacophonous drum battle between Crover and Willis to ensue whilst Warren descends into the crown to scream and gurgle nerve shredding noises into the mic’ the privileged few in attendance leave in the curious state where even having known what to expect the realisation of that expectation has completely blown their fucking mind. If anyone wants to start a Kickstater to get Buzz that mansion, I’ll be the first to donate.

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