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Melvins, Jon Spencer


  • High Noon Saloon 701 East Washington Avenue Madison, WI, 53703 United States (map)

Cacophony meeting sludge and two bass players is the new chocolate meeting peanut butter. Info/tix

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Melvins first became nationally infamous in Nirvana's wake, but they'd been hometown heroes in Washington since the mid-’80s, and therefore massively influential on a scene that would help change the nature of American independent music. This was a strange period of music history, when a band could jump from a label called "Boner Records," to a label called "Atlantic Records" in the space of a single year, which the Melvins in 1993 did after Kurt Cobain cited them as an influence and as friends. Though they weren't sustainably commercial enough for an extended stay on a major label, the band's been churning out solid music for three decades, and has released an EP or album nearly every year.

While Melvins are always playing some form of rock, their sound ranges from experimental noise to catchy grunge to sludge metal and back again. There is literally no discography anything like theirs, partially because most bands give up at some point. On 2018's Pinkus Abortion Technician, the band takes a characteristic risk by shuffling Butthole Surfers bassist Jeff Pinkus back into the group, using two bass players at a time. (Pinkus has joined Melvins on previous records, but here he’s co-written four of this album’s songs.) The unconventional instrumentation is put to aggressive effect on the single "Don't Move To Florida," which starts as a classic hard rock song, turns into an experimental sludgy spoken-word piece, and ends with a blues-punk breakdown. The rest of the tracks are focused iterations of hard rock with particularly busy bass lines, like the heavy cover of “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” by The Beatles, which is exposed as the creepy plea for physical affection that it always was (with wild bass riffing thrown in). As a formal meditation on low-pitch melodies, the album stumbles when the basses are just used like deep guitars, but on tracks like the relatively reserved “Flamboyant Duck,” when thoughtfully grounded with looping banjo hooks, it makes for enjoyable grooves. Unfortunately, if you’re prejudiced against bass solos, I can’t help you with this one.

The original garage-rock edge-lord Jon Spencer, of the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Pussy Galore, and Boss Hog opens. His recent single “Do The Trash Can,” is impressively both screeching and infectious. —Reid Kurkerewicz