PRAYER, HOMAGE, EVENT: Stewart Voegtlin and Beaver on Melvins’ “Lysol” era (excerpt from Arthur 34)

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Here’s an excerpt from Stewart Voegtlin‘s epic thinkpiece on Melvins’ Lysol era in the new ish of Arthur. Above is a detail of the giant illustration for the piece by Beaver

…Easiest, quickest way to learn what “big” and “heavy” consist of is to “do it.” Melvins did it. They made big, heavy records, long before Lysol. Future Melvins bass player Mark Deutrom produced their two biggest, heaviest, earliest records: Gluey Porch Treatments (1987) and Ozma (1989). Deutrom’s production, so simplistic it sounds complex, is unobtrusively brilliant, as its hands-free take leaves room ambience and artistic attack alone to their violent courtship. Results are uncommonly common: with 24 tracks for three instruments and vocals, everything sounds as it should—like itself. While “Grunge” reappropriated the more banal aspects of Zeppelin and Sabbath, Melvins strove intentionally (or not) to resist imitation, instead building a band and music unlike everything that revolved around them in Seattle’s “Emerald City.”

How is it that Osborne, Preston, and Crover held Lysol up as prayer, as homage, as event? How is it three musicians escaped predestined life plan as mere accumulation of echoes? How is it they became collective sage paid tribute to by lesser folk in the long march towards mass artistic reproduction? Deutrom certainly helped. Without much embellishment, he “allowed” Melvins to show themselves what they already knew. But when the haze of convenience store zen burned off, Melvins only knew they didn’t.

Whereas other bands consciously manufactured “heaviness,” Melvins’ music was symptomatic of its criteria, even as it masterfully submitted it to erasure within any given song’s parameters. The banal, blues-based music, thickened by overdriven guitars and castle walls of amps, was modified with prankish disregard for its form. Early “single” “Oven,” from Gluey Porch Treatments, is 1:29 of breakdowns, its beginning same as its midsection, its conclusion. Crover’s recycled beat is marching band jive, trucker speed jittered, locking jaws after every breath. Osborne’s chords ring out and then vanish completely, relegated to the stupid static squiggle that sounds when one plugs in. When it all comes together, Osborne paints randomness over Crover’s wind-knocking accents: “Pez are gonna let it slide gonna burn what cotton decides are apelee / My main oven drive he took from under what’s come over me.” “Just like witches at black masses” it ain’t.
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