Review Summary: All in all, Ozma is a solid early Melvins record, but it lacks quite a bit of the originality, oddness and, yes, heaviness that made its predecessor, Gluey Porch Treatments so great.
Aberdeen's Melvins, consisting of eccentric guitarist/singer Buzz "King Buzzo" Osborne, genius drummer Dale Crover and whoever's currently around on bass, have had one major problem during their now long-lasting career: Misunderstanding. They've been lumped with Seattle "grunge" and regarded as yet another Black Sabbath
revival band by people who most likely hadn't even properly listened to their music. The one thing they have in common Iommi and crew is the fact that they're both slow and heavy, so the comparisons are at least a tiny bit justified. And, yes, they have inspired some "grunge" bands and were personal friends and idols of a certain Kurt Cobain. But that's pretty much it. If you listen to them and expect Nirvana
and/or Pearl Jam
, prepare to be disappointed and/or disgusted by the sheer slow-, heavy- and weirdness.
Which leads us to "Ozma", their second full-length album, complete with Shirley Temple's daughter on bass. Unfortunately, the attempt to follow up the noisy avalanche of sound that was "Gluey Porch Treatments" with something similar, yet slightly different can be regarded as mostly failed. My overall impression of "Ozma" was that this is an attempt to sound more "accessible". The production's less dirty and seems to be aimed at maximum clarity which is definitely not a good thing. First of all, Dale Crover's drum onslaught has been put back in the mix. I mean, why would anyone do that? It's like undermixing Jimi Hendrix
's guitar because it "interferes with the bass". Dumb, just dumb. And like it wasn't enough, they toned down Buzz's "10 million pounds of sludge from New York and New Jersey" guitar too. So, what's the result? We get a lot of empty space and more of Shirley Temple's daughter's noisy bass than usual. I'm sure that's what everyone wants... OK, I wouldn't bitch about the production so much if at least the songs were good. But unfortunately, most of them are in the so-so realm. The structures have been streamlined, compared to "Gluey Porch Treatments"'s free forms. There's still the occasional surprising 180-degrees turn and odd time signature here and there (like on "Creepy Smell"), but generally, most of the tracks are pretty "normal" and unmemorable. This is especially odd since the lengths have increased a bit and they often manage to cram more tempo changes and eccentric ideas into 40 seconds than into 2 minutes. But of course there's some exceptions. The appropriately-titled opening track "Vile", the aforementioned "Creepy Smell" (later ripped off by Nirvana
for "School") or the especially dynamic "Kool Legged". "Love Thing" is a nice lil' tune and the unexpected cover of The Cars
' "Candy-O" nice too, as is "Oven", but the rest is largely uninteresting.
In general, the problem is that the Melvins are one of worst bands to put on as background music, but on the other hand it's hard to concentrate on something this tamely produced and unmemorable.