Aural hangover: The Melvins, Oct. 23, LVCS
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I always figured this job would eventually make me deaf. And the devolution of my hearing was expedited at last night's Melvins show at the Las Vegas Country Saloon, on Fremont Street.
The Washington state band -- in trio form on a record-breaking tour that covers the entire U.S. in 51 days -- is renowned for its unrelenting stoner rock, the sort of "heavy" guitar music that appeals to the indie crowd due to its obfuscated and melody-resistant songwriting, and its occasional forays into punk and progressive rock. (Being an influencer of Nirvana and Mudhoney doesn't exactly taint its credibility, either.) The Melvins are their own brand of metal -- that is, a slower and often more cantankerous take on metal. It's the sound of your dad's old classic rock records being melted down and then pureed in a blender, sans the lid. Which is to say it goes all over the place and it's fucking loud.
In fact, the one true overlap between The Melvins and the metal crowd is Black Sabbath, and that inspiration was most audible during its hour-plus set last night, just above Black Flag and, um, Cream. Churning out sludge out like a punctured oil tanker was Buzz Osborne, the iconic, mop-topped guitarist/singer who didn't meet a minor chord he didn't like. Whether droning on or punching out riffs, Osborne showed versatility and mastery of his instrument, and could transition from one song to another without so much as blinking. That talent was also evident in drummer Dale Crower and stand-up bassist Trevor Dunn, the former managing arrhythmic feats my restless body couldn't quite negotiate, and the latter often attacking the fretboard as if he was playing Dance Dance Revolution with his fingers. Dunn also solely bookended a handful of the songs, unsurprising for a band so smitten with the bottom end.
Its audience was fairly unresponsive except for the band's punkier forays, often the best numbers of the night. A previously meandering pit found ferocity during "A History of Drunks," and after a mostly downtempo song suite featuring largely newer songs ("Play old shit!" screamed one attendee) forcefully rebooted with "Electric Flower, ending with a Dunn bass solo (that included the theme song to Jaws). That romp should have ended the show, but the band returned to the stage for a dirge called "Shevil" that lost some of the crowd and finally petered out. Not even Crower's suggestion to "get shitfaced!" could thwart the anticlimax.
Then again, if we'd learned anything from the proceeding 75 minutes, it was that The Melvins will go in the opposite direction anyone else would take -- or make up directions of their own.