Review Summary: A hugely disappointing latest from one of the most influential bands of the past twenty years. There are moments of promise, but these are hugely outweighed by negatives.
They may not be as well known as the likes of Nirvana, The Offspring or Korn, but in terms of influence few can compete with that of the Melvins over the past two decades. The band, originally a trio from Washington can be credited as a major influence behind the entire grunge scene, most notably Nirvana, whose frontman Kurt Cobain had once auditioned for them and worked as their roadie. The Melvins have also influenced other genres such as sludge metal and doom.
The Melvins formed in 1982, playing a unique mix of metal and punk which pushed previous extremes of heaviness and speed, both fast and slow. Their debut album, Gluey Porch Treatments
was one of the most influential albums of the 80’s, its dirty unpolished sound was to become one of the trademarks of the grunge genre it helped influence. The band continued to release strong material, and was snapped up by Atlantic Records in the wake of the grunge explosion in the early nineties. They released three albums for Atlantic before being dropped in 1997 as a result of poor record sales and the decline of the Seattle scene to which they were so influential. They continued to release albums of varying quality for the best part of a decade, from the difficult experiments like Honky
to the straight forward energetic metal of The Maggot
2006 witnessed an unexpected new chapter in Melvins history, as the bassist-less band merged with the guitarist-less sludge band Big Business. Changing members was nothing new, with many different bassists joining and leaving the band throughout their history, but the merging left the band with two drummers. This meant that, despite still being known as the Melvins, this was effectively a totally different band. The quartet’s first album together , (A) Senile Animal
was well received by fans and critics alike, with the drumming duo drawing particular praise. Their latest release 2008’s Nude With Boots
, is the sixteenth album of the Melvins career, now well into its third decade.
Despite this, there are moments on Nude With Boots
where the two original members seemingly defy age and rock out with the same kind of aggression and enthusiasm present in their early work. An example of this is The Smiling Cobra
, a burst of energy and punk rock spirit. Another aspect of their music that still remains are the sludgy, slower numbers such as Dog Island
and The Savage Hippy
, which are amongst the stronger songs here. Unfortunately, none of these songs live up to their potential, largely a result of poor songwriting.
Apart from those mentioned earlier though, there are very few aspects of classic Melvins. Instead, Nude With Boots
seems to be influenced by 70’s hard rock such as Led Zeppelin. This on its own is not a bad thing, but some of the things absent were what made the Melvins great in the first place. The most noticeable of these is the lack of heaviness. Almost all of the bands greatest albums such as Gluey Porch Treatments
and more recently The Maggot
have been heavy, with dense guitars and bass backed by pounding drums. Nude With Boots’
predecessor (A) Senile Animal
isn’t exactly heavy either, but at least it had plenty of energy, another factor that is sorely missed here, the album becoming rather boring as a consequence. With the exception of the totally pointless Flush
, there isn’t even any of the crazy experimentation that at least made some of their more recent albums interesting.
Repetition is also a problem. Some songs, such as the previously mentioned Dog Island
begin promisingly, in this case with droning guitars and a simple yet effective riff. This is great first time around, but becomes very tiresome after being repeated for the song’s seven and a half minute duration. The same problems are found on It Tastes Better Than The Truth
amongst others. Repetition isn’t new to the Melvins, but in the past they have at least found a way to make it interesting. However, Nude With Boots’
main weakness is how poorly the Melvins use their two drummers. On paper, extra percussion would seem like a great asset to the band. Here however, the presence of an extra member is barely noticeable, with both Dale Crover and Coady Willis following simple, rather boring beats that add very little to the music.
Unfortunately, at least one of these weaknesses is present on every song, often ruining songs that do have promise. Because of this, there are no songs here that I would even recommend downloading. Nude With Boots
serves as a good example as to why bands such as the Melvins are no longer relevant to the development of music like they used to be. Yes, the album does have a couple of decent moments that bear some resemblance to their superior early material, but these are few and far between on an otherwise dull offering. The only people that should buy this are the big Melvins fans, some of whom may find at least some enjoyment. Otherwise, it would be best to avoid this massively disappointing release.