Melvins
Houdini Live 2005: A Live History of Gluttony and Lust
Ipecac
2006
A-



calling into question the meaning of a “live” album, the Melvins trot out some vault volume with this gem, a stellar recording of Buzz, Dale, and ad hoc four-stringer, Trevor Dunn, zipping through the entirety of 1993’s Houdini—even mammoth “drum solo,” “Spread Eagle Beagle.” The trio was [thankfully] prodded into action by the All Tomorrows Parties folks, whom were hellbent on getting a bunch of their favorite groups to reminisce at excruciating volume as part of their “Don’t Look Back” series. The Melvins acquiesced, invading a South L.A. warehouse space, setting up camp, and cranking through a remarkably tight set of dome rattlers.

Houdini was undoubtedly an artistic apex, with Buzz and Dale shrinking the primordial drone of 1992’s Lysol down to four and five minute depth charges; songs stuffed full of fills, riffs piled one atop the other, lyrics delivered in the oscillating Bunyan boom, gutter growl. Some of the songs soar: “Honey Bucket” is hyper-adrenaline’d ZZ Top, all finger lickin’ licks and oom-pah precision percussion. Some spin their wheels: “Joan of Arc” whirrs and red-lines, tires tearing up earth and rock, tossing mud high into the sky: storm at sea hi-hats, Big Dick guitar delivery, incongruous lyrics:
Chase
Learning
Finally
On your ray
Might be bey
Lucky day
Now!!!!!!!!!!
And some are just plainly preternatural, opener “Pearl Bomb” mainlines some quick Crover hi-hat work with one of Buzz’ best riffs. Dunn dutifully accepts the challenge, strapping in and sparring deftly for the under two-minute melee. “Night Goat” is another wonder, replete with Buzz’ farting low-end, Dale’s martial shit-stomp, Dunn’s diarrhetic bass drip. Capper “Spread Eagle Beagle” is a 12-minute plus percussive workout from the arms, hands, and feet of Crover—one of metal’s greatest drummers. Single thuds mutate into cartoonish stomps; fills crash like bookcases loaded down with super balls; cymbals are choked and crushed; snare, toms, and bass are butchered.

One would be hard-pressed to proffer something better than a Melvins show in the early to mid ‘90s. The trio was surgical, cutting though their sets like Orange County rhinoplasters jetlagged with five martini lunches. Buzz oozed tree sap sweat, his hair enunciating every change, every rhythm. Crover—usually stripped down to some jogging shorts—was all hair and limbs; cymbals swaying under his delivery; toms trembling. The audience? Ears ached; the throat went sore from screaming out praises; the fists were forever up in acute salute. That’s what it was like seeing them, and Houdini Live is what they fucking sounded like.


Reviewed by: Stewart Voegtlin
Reviewed on: 2006-05-19
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