Smells Like Leif Garrett

The Melvins are (still) willing to provoke and confuse

"We went out of the way to record a song for him," he continues, "then transfer it to the format he wanted and send it to him six months in advance. According to his management -- because they wouldn't allow us to talk to him ourselves -- we screwed up by not giving him enough time to get it done."

The Melvins' earliest albums, like 1989's Ozma and 1990's Bullhead (both released on San Francisco-based Boner Records), suggested a behemoth beast lumbering along beneath the standard pitch of traditional rock music. In fact, Crover's ingeniously lugubrious rhythms were often recorded with the tape running at a higher speed. When played back at normal speed so the detuned guitars and Osborne's deranged vocals could be added, the band sounded like an inhuman musical monstrosity. On more recent releases like Stag and Honky, the Melvins expanded their repertoire to hint at further explorations into electronics, atmospherics, metallics, and perhaps even hallucinogens.

The group's newfound penchant for ethereal drones, wry piano flourishes, and lounge-lipped vocal whispers amid sections of cranky guitars and Crover's requisite drum-god triplet psychosis creates a juxtaposition of styles that's almost more schizophrenic than it is artistic. That aesthetic-at-odds-with-itself approach was possibly behind the band's decision to record three separate albums last year -- each with its own unique style -- comprising a complete thematic trilogy for its debut on Ipecac Recordings. Nearly all the tracks for the three albums were recorded in San Francisco at the aptly named Louder Studios, the home studio of Champs guitarist Tim Green. The first disc in the trilogy, The Maggot, was released in May and aimed its sights directly for overdrive, proving that heavy metal needn't be superfluous or stupid. The Bootlicker, which followed in August of that year, demonstrated the slithering, stripped-down, devolved-pop side of the Melvins. "I think we can do this kind of [experimentation] and I think our fans can handle it," says Osborne. "And, if they can't," his voice rising in sadistic glee, "oh well!"

The Ipecac trilogy seems an accurate representation of the group's triple-pronged hydra-head personality: If The Maggot is the blustering metal-sludge album and The Bootlicker is the quirky, quiet, warped album, then The Crybaby is the prankster record featuring a feeding frenzy of guest musicians. Instead of issuing the trio together in one set, the band wanted to provide fans with the option to choose the Melvins personality they prefer -- or, better still, buy all three on the layaway plan. "I didn't want to do a three-record set," says Osborne, "because I don't want to saddle someone with having to buy a $30 CD."

Whether or not The Crybaby will rouse the controversy that some observers expect remains to be seen. The band is already working on new material, which Osborne says is nothing like the recent trilogy. Additionally, an album of cover tracks and revamped versions of old Melvins songs is scheduled for release on local imprint Man's Ruin later this year. And band members are involved in various side projects to fill up what time remains in their busy schedules between frequent tours. "We have a lot of irons in the fire," Osborne says.

Having traveled down the West Coast looking for places to call home -- band members have been based everywhere from Aberdeen to the Bay Area to Southern California -- the band doesn't intend to change its approach. "Now all of us live in L.A., so it's like a new beginning for us," says Osborne. "It's the first time we've all been in the same city in seven or eight years."

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