8 October 2017

(the) Melvins - A Walk with Love & Death


If I wrote another opening paragraph about the Melvins and went over everything they have accomplished in their career, it would have to come with a few appendixes.  A Walk with Love & Death is the twenty fifth studio album by the band (if you include collaborations and other versions of the Melvins, which was released in May 2017.  It features guest appearances by the likes of Joey Santiago (Pixies), Anna Waronker (that dog.) and Teri Gender Bender (Le Butcherettes).  The first side is called Love (which is the soundtrack to a short movie called A Walk with Love & Death by Jesse Nieminen) and the second is called Death which is a standard album. So, without further ado (and because this is a long review), lets get started.....

Love

01 - Aim High

The Love side of this album opens with "Aim High", a swirling psychedelic-pop number about wanting to get off your tits on drugs (it could be about anything, but that is what I took from it).  It is full of energy and it sound as if everything is melting through your speakers and mind, due to the drugs kicking in.  It is a frantic and fast little opening, a fun song to start this long album(s).

02 - Queen Powder Party

Queen Powder Party is your standard noise track, strange electronic sounds dancing around your speakers, nightmarish screams and the feeling like a black & white teenage horror film is playing in the background.  A good track then, but lets be honest here, they have created better than this.

03 - Street Level St. Paul

With a low-slung bass, sludge drums and a wall of feedback, "Street Level St. Paul" is the first song on this album to truly grab my attention.  No disrespect to "Aim High" or "Queen Powder Party", but this is The Melvins at their best for me.  It sounds huge, it sounds loud and it feels like someone is having their lungs punch with the sound of the bass amp.  It is a great song, one of the best of either part of this double record.

04 - The Hidden Joice

Slowly things down once again, "The Hidden Joice" is a beautiful piece of noise which gives more with each listen, revealing extra depths with each spin and it is a wonder song. It is not heavy at all, but there is weight behind each note, as if they are straining to be unleashed and sometimes this is where you find The Melvins at their fiercest, in that moment before the explosion.  I love the way their mix their noise with classic pop/rock at times, it sounds sublime and is such a hard act to get right, something they do with apparent ease.

05 - Give in To Me

No, this is not a cover the Michael Jackson song, but a noise piece which gives the listener a massive injection of strange sounds and it have that Avant Garde feeling that you might be going down the rabbit hole.  You will either love it or loathe it, it really depends on how much you love your noise - as you are reading an article about The Melvins, I would suspect you like it an awful lot.  But be warned, this one is a test for some and is akin to Nurse with Wound in places.


06 - Chicken Butt

"Chicken Butt" almost sounds too normal in comparison to "Give in To Me", after that much noise, it is sort of hard to come back into reality.  It is a decent number, but even the presence of Ms Terri Gender Bender cannot make it sparkle after such a hypnotic wall of sound.  A good song, but in the wrong place.

07 - Eat Yourself Whole

A little interlude track in a way, "Eat Yourself Whole" sounds like a scat-rap piece with the band doing an accompany jam in the background via another room.  I love the sound of this song, but it is nothing more than an interlude.

08 - Scooba

We are back in the land of the colossal bass sound with "Scooba", it starts off with that teeth vibrating sound which is so good.  It moves at such a slow place that calling it sludge would not do justice to the noise. Also, the slow decent into another piece of random sound is delightful, but I wonder if it would how it would have sounded if they had have not ended with that disintegration at the end of the song.

09 - Halfway to the Bakersfield Mall

"Halfway to the Bakersfield Mall" is another noise piece, one that sounds like an acid trip on the way through a vast public space, whilst reality and fantasy fight to see who will win in your mind.  I am not going to lie, it is either going to enthral or bore you, but I love it as it sounds like a bizarre nightmare.


10 - Pacoima Normal

More noise, more glorious noise that is designed to capture the imagination and separate the wheat from the chaff, but in the form of noise heads and sludge fans.  It is intense, it is violent and it is brilliant.  But it is also not for everyone, somethings are never should be and this is one of them.


11 - Park Head

You can really tell this is a soundtrack to a film, the number of abstract pieces on this side of the record is rather heavy.  But I love these little pieces, they add flavour to my mind.  I wish I could hear it in the correct context, alongside the movie, but it still sounds great.

12 - T-Burg

Noise! Noise! Noise! Noise! Noise!  Again, you will either love it or hate it.  There is not much else to talk about on this one, but it is an interest piece with a lot of swearing.

13 - Track Star

See the last four entries for my thoughts on this one, it is very much the same sort of thing.  You are listening to Avant Garde noise for a film, you will either love or hate it, for my money - I love it.


14 - The Asshole Bastard

Ending Love is "The Asshole Bastard", which continues the strange and Avant leanings of the soundtrack.  If you have not enjoyed the last five numbers, chances are this will drive you over the edge.  But there is beauty in this track, a fascinating piece of art that will make ears bleed when played at the right volume.  It is (once again), not for everyone, but neither are the Melvins to be honest.

Death

01 - Black Heath

Death starts as Love ended, with a strange piece of noise.  This introduction sounds like the background noise of an office or place of work, with strange keyboards in the background.  As an introduction, it is decent and you are awaiting the band to kick in.

02 - Sober-Delic (Acid Only)

Finally, a piece from the Melvins which is not just noise!  As much as I love their Avant Garde side, it is also a joy to hear King Buzzo let those vocals flow!  This is a slow and (for the Melvins) sparse piece which is heavy when required, but also as gentle as a lover in others.  On both discs, this is one of my favourite tracks on the album.  It is a piece that can get stuck in my head and it does not need the reverb that is their normal calling card.  Also, that ending is a fantastic piece of looping sound!


03 - Euthanasia

More noise!  It sounds like you are half listening to conversations through a fog with a helicopter going around.  Much like the best percentage of this record, it is for the few and not the many.  But I think it is brilliant, definitely one of the best noise sections of this record.

04 - What's Wrong with You?

A slow and intense pain, that is the best way I can describe "What's Wrong with You?".  It oozes out of the speaker and it is as gentle and powerful as a stream, but even a stream over time can cut through anything and this song is a cracking example of the Melvins at their best when the distortion and noise is put to the side. 

05 - Edgar the Elephant


Everything is turned up loud on this song, except the speed which is turned down to sludge pace.  I love "Edgar the Elephant" as it hits all the right buttons, all at the speed of sludge and it is a heavy as anything of their back catalogue.  It is a great number, one of the best on either side of the record.

06 - Flaming Creature

We are back on the noise trip at this point, with a wall of feedback at sonic noise attack that is in fitting with the best percentage of this record.  It is a short piece, but an effective one none the less.

07 - Christ Hammer


Another strange piece of avant-garde noise, one that reminds me of the strange interludes on Civilization Phaze III by Frank Zappa.  It is over in the blink of an eye and could have been explored a lot further to be honest.  A little too short, but still interesting.

08 - Cactus Party

The penultimate song of this album shows the pop/rock side of Melvins, it is a straight forward number that is direct and to the point.  After all the noise on this album, it is a little gem of delight as the record draws to a close.

09 - Cardboa Negro

Ending the album is the delicious "Cardboa Negro", a song that brings the curtain down in a dignified manner, to be honest I was expecting a wall of distorted noise and they have ended on a slow post-grunge number that gets better with each spin.  It is a subtle way to end this album, but not an unwelcome one, in fact it is one of the best on the record and I love it!

I am no closer to marking this album than I was back in May, it is an impossible record to give a mere number to that will encapsulate this nuance of this record perfectly.  It is an album by a legendary band who have never been afraid to push the envelope, a band who made their mark in noise and they have released one of the most difficult records of their career.  It will not be for everyone and that is the intent on this record, for the few and not the many.  I do wish I could see the film from the Love side of the record, but I am sure I will one day.  Out of the two sides, Death is the better piece.  It just sings to my soul, but both are equally brilliant.  It is just an album that is impossible to mark, anyone that tells you otherwise is lying to you.  It is not the album I would reach for first, but it is one I admire.

Crazy Cat Symbol - This album cannot be marked, so here is a box of kittens


Top track - Cardboa Negro


You can purchase A Walk with Love & Death on Amazon.

You can purchase A Walk with Love & Death on the Melvins/Ipecac Bandcamp here.

You can visit (the) Melvins website here.

You can follow the activities of (the) Melvins on Facebook here.

You can stream A Walk with Love & Death on Spotify here.

You can stream A Walk with Love & Death on Deezer here.

You can stream A Walk with Love & Death on Tidal here.

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