Under The Influence #17: Alienator on “Houdini” by Melvins!

“Houdini” marked the major label debut for Melvins in 1993 with Atlantic Records taking advantage of the fan base they had built up with their previous Boner Records independent release “Lysol” the year before. Commercially their biggest success and arguably their most accessible release, it is also an album that has a backstory associated with it that would make a good book. Nirvana Mastermind Kurt Cobain gets a co-production credit alongside GGGarth and the band themselves though despite recording guitar work for one cut and percussion for another, his total input is said to be less than one might have thought. Similarly, bassist Lorax didn’t actually record any bass on the album itself despite credit in the liner notes. But none of that really matters. Melvins appeal is the riffs that cross over Sludge, Doom and Grunge Metal in a fashion which saw “We Reach: The Music of The Melvins” appear via Fractured Transmitter Records that has everyone from Dillinger Escape Plan to Mastodon and Strapping Young Lad to name but a few pay homage to their heroes.

Alienator comment: “Most of the bands I’ve heard that try to sound like the Melvins take inspiration from the really slow, trudgey stuff on albums like “Lysol” I like that stuff a lot too, but what inspires me about The Melvins is how they always take creative chances, make whatever kind of album they want and basically give zero f***s about what anyone else thinks about it.

In some ways, “Houdini” is one of their most accessible releases. Short, stripped down tunes with killer riffs like “Honey Bucket” and “Night Goat” would have to make the cut for any Melvins greatest hits comp. The lyrics on many of these songs make no sense and that’s part of the charm. The album sounds huge – Dale Crover’s drums sound just cavernous on the opener, “Hooch,” which is one of my favourites by them. Then they throw in a Kiss cover “Goin’ Blind” that fits perfectly. “Lizzy” does the whole quiet-loud-quiet-loud thing to perfection and “Hag Me” sounds like it could have been on “Lysol”
Then it gets weird. What must the Atlantic records execs have though of a tune like “sky pup,” or “pearl bomb?” How about the uncomfortable blast of feedback at the end of “Teet?” or the CD closer, “Spreadeagle Beagle,” which is ten minutes of bizarre percussion? The marriage of their best straight ahead rippers and strange experimentation gave myself and a lot of others permission to get weird and arty, while still writing kickass heavy riffs and memorable songs. That’s me in a nutshell. I like art and I like riffs. Throw ’em together into a soup and I think it’s delicious. That’s what I try to accomplish in my band. Hopefully people like it and if they don’t, in the spirit of King Buzzo and The Melvins, we’ll keep doing it anyway.”
“Pariahs” by Alienator is out now!

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