are one of the earliest, if not the oldest band in the grunge genre. They play a unique brand of grunge, which crosses stoner rock with noise rock. The power chords of sludge are mixed with the fuzz and buzz of electronic feedback, which is used as a musical instrument in itself. Although they might be a band of stoners, they certainly are not a band of slackers. Through the course of three decades, they usually release a new album at least every two years. The album's title, Basses Loaded
, is a play of words on the baseball term, the bases are loaded. Instead of having a runner at each base, they randomly feature four guest bassists within these twelve tracks. The copies at my record store were all red and black, instead of the red and blue one, that is displayed here. The fold out booklet wastes five panels on pretentious art, instead of revealing the lyrical content.
is the distinguished character with the frizzy and electrified looking hairdo. He is a co-founder of the band and handles the lead vocal duties. He has a bizarre sense of humor and a diverse array of attitudes to portray in these eclectic performances. At fifty two years of age, his vocal chords still sound reasonably capable for what he does. King Buzzo
vocalizes his expressions with a soft spoken personality like Roy Orbison
, mixed with slightly effeminate undertones like Roland Orzabal from Tears for Fears. Sometimes angelic choruses back up the lead vocals, like a ray of sunlight from heaven. The first track, The Decay of Lying, features bassist Steven McDonald
. It's played slowly with stately strumming and then collides into the course of a powerful texture of stoner rock. It was recorded in low fidelity, yielding the presence of noise distortion. So it's hard to make out the lyrics. The stoner rock is paired with a gloomy vocal presentation, to create a melancholic Gothic atmosphere.
is a co-founder and started playing percussion for The Melvins
in eighty four. He played drums for Kurt Cobain's first band, Fecal Matter and also played drums in ten of Nirvana
's demo tracks during eighty eight. Sometimes there are somewhat intricate beat patterns, with some emphatic speed changes. Occasionally the beats flare up with some fluttering jazz like flurries. But he plays slow and hard during the lethargic stoner rock songs. The drum beats actually sound like dull thuds, with the dumbed down quality of the production. Track number two, Choco Plumbing, features their regular bassist, Jared Warren. It starts out with about ten seconds of droned out crap. Then it suddenly breaks out with melodic bass plucking, played at a medium tempo. The lyrics aren't fully intelligible, but King Buzzo
raises his soft voice to the light and high level of a falsetto, with questionable masculinity. The tempo increases with some snare drum flare ups and a shoe gaze guitar solo. Then a quirky sounding keyboard plays a few bizarre notes.
handles the guitar duties with his unconventional touch. The guitar is down tuned, which makes it hard to differentiate from the bass music. It's used sparingly with this bassist scheme to let the guest musicians shine in the spotlight. It is never fancy and just goes with the basic fundamentals of the instrument. The fifth song, Captain Come Down, is a three minute track that features Jeff Pinkus on bass. It starts with an old fashioned whistling sound effect. Then it abruptly jumps into business with a hard hitting sludge assault. It goes at a moderate speed, with heavy yet very catchy riffs. The guitarist accentuates the bass onslaught with a few high noes. The vocals have a very dark attitude and the unclear lyrics are yelled out emphatically. The distorted echoes of the voice are exploited as a form of melodic art, along with a fuzzed out guitar solo. The guitar music gradually gets more explosive towards the end, with intense riff shifting.
So the theme of this album is that it features five different bassists, who don't seem to appear in any fixed pattern. Jared Warren has appeared on all of The Melvin's albums since two thousand six. Steven McDonald
is an alternative rock bassist who works the Los Angeles nightclub circuits with Redd Kross. Jeff Pinkus has played bass with The Butthole Surfers
for eight years. Trevor Dunn has played bass with Mr. Bungle for about seven years. The bass music is often heavy with slow bone crushing chops, during the stoner rock textures. The bass music is sometimes plucked melodically, in the upbeat songs. Track number seven, Shaving Cream
, features drummer Dale Crover
on the bass. It starts with fifteen seconds of a high note whirling guitar solo, complemented with a maniacal screaming voice. Then suddenly there is a ring from a bell and the intensity moves to the opposite polarity. It turns into an old fashioned polka song, in which a relatively high npte will be corresponded by a relatively low note. The vocals are sung out with humble modesty for a cheesy ambiance. "A baby fell out of the window...she fell into a barrel of shit." Then the chorus slowly goes; "shit, shit, shit!" Then it carries on with such crude themes, through the last minutes of the song.
Probably the biggest name among these guest bassists is Krist Novoselic. He has been a friend oi both the Melvins' co-founders since the eighties. Krist and Kurt Cobain were the co-founders of Nirvana
, which became a huge success, until Kurt died in ninety four. Since then he has been occupied with an assortment of activities; such as playing music, writing music, attaining a bachelor degree in social studies, writing political articles and books. The tenth track, Maybe I'm Amazed, features Krist Novoselic on both the accordion and the bass. It abruptly starts with intricate yet cheesy melodies. It is projected boldly like an anthem of Slavic folk music. The lead guitar cuts in with a short wailing guitar solo. The bass music isn't too prominent in this song and the drum music just casually blends in. The accordion and guitar music dominate this roughly two and a half minute song.
In the early nineties they artfully manipulated the electronic feedback of fuzz and buzz into intricate patterns. But in recent years it has been over used as a disruptive noise to impair the quality of the musical compositions. Here on Basses Loaded
, the feedback is less extreme and is imposed just enough to impede the comprehension of the lyrics. But the quality of the recording is still under produced with the usual low fidelity. Which offers more character than the overly polished albums like the latest from Candlebox
. These compositions are an odd mix of stoner rock and pre-rock folk music. Some parts are doomy and gloomy enough to scare the cockroaches out of your trailers. If this album sounds extra tacky, then it is right in line with the early roots of grunge, which were very tacky. It sounds like it was hastily pieced together to make a quick buck, which has been their modus operandi.