Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Review #81: The Melvins - Gluey Porch Treatments (1987)


Year: 1987
Genre: Heavy Metal, Punk Rock
Sludge, Grunge, Hardcore
Alchemy Records
38 Minutes (Long)
My Rating:

It was the end of an era and the beginning of an era. The Melvins were moving away from their more linear punk origins into something entirely their own. They were becoming more individual than punk. Heavier and slower than grunge. They arguably created the genre of grunge themselves, and even that wasn't extreme enough! This album could be considered the first "sludge-metal" work ever. The production is murky and uncrisp. The music is most of the time, very slow, very heavy, and very unpredictable. The lyrics are even considerably more serious than a later Melvins album. It is the next logical step after what Black Flag had done on "In My Head" about a year and a half prior. This was their last work with Matt Lukin on the bass guitar. Their last work as a Seattle band, before the whole thing with that really even started to take off. This is Gluey Porch Treatments, a true monster of an album which blurs the line between punk rock, heavy metal, and things about rock n' roll you probably didn't even know existed! Let's take a look, shall we?

1. Eye Flys
An extremely slow bassline begins the album. This is punctuated by an occasional single drumbeat. Eventually a buzzing wave of feedback soars in, adding to the ominous mood. By about shortly after midway through the song, the feedback evolves into a droning rhythm guitar, continuing on along the repeated motions of the other instruments. After around four minutes into the song, this all changes into something that sounds a bit more intricate, and eventually Buzz starts to sing his era-typical snotty, angry vocals. The whole song is over six minutes long, and it's one of the most famous Melvins songs in the fanbase.

2. Echo Head
Shortest song on the album. A quirky, speedy little song with shifting rhythms, somewhere between hardcore punk and '80s Melvins weirdness.

3. Don't Piece Me
Starts with a speedy guitar intro sounding like something fast is going to happen (I'd imagine it was done to piss off generic punkers), but then it segues into a piece that it slow, but not nearly as slow as Eye Flys. It could be considered a grunge song in this regard. The second half of the song seems to be a re-hash of the last part of "Show Off Your Red Hands", an earlier song that was recorded for the first EP but not released on any record until 1989.

4. Heater Moves and Eyes
This is a very slow, emotional, great song. The first half has a lot of punch to it and the riff is awesome and the whole song really good and it's one of the best songs on the album. The second half of the song is one of my favorite moments of the album. The final half-minute of the song contains a neat little guitar solo.

5. Steve Instant Neuman
This is a re-recorded version of "Disinvite" from the band's debut EP from 1986. My favorite part is the chorus that goes "Disinvite" in the song. It's pretty damn awesome. After the first chorus is a solo. Then there's the shorter second verse. Then the chorus again -- DISINVITE... DIS... YOU DIS-INVITE...

6. Influence of the Atmosphere
This one is also extremely slow. More unpredictable twists and turns in rhythms and riffs. Some might hate that, but I think it's part of the charm in songs like that. I think the lyrics might be about government propaganda ("you're the adult to reign", "I look into your glass eye") and the dark truths behind them.

7. Exact Paperbacks
This is one of the faster hardcore-sounding songs. My interpretation of the lyrics (which all on this album are quite strange) is the ineffectiveness and likely ignorance of users of American "democracy". The first half is more pounding, and the second half is more flowing and speedy.

8. Happy Gray or Black
The first part of the song is fast and punky. The quick energy is drained away about 1/3 through the song and replaced with a slow, heavy darker part of the song that dirges on with, once again, very interesting drumwork from the Mr. Dale Crover.

9. Leeech
They say this song was originally going to be a Green River song (it was written by Mark Arm and Steve Turner), but the band disliked the song and gave it up for the Melvins for it to be a "Melvins song". For this, the general vibe of the song is somewhat different than the rest of the songs here. About halfway through the song, the rhythm guitar disappears, leaving only bass and drums to be heard. Then the bass guitar disappears as well, so all that is heard for the remainder of the song is the beat. End of Side 1.

10. Glow God
Another short song. It's an instrumental, starting with a constructed guitar melody which halfway through transforms into rhythm guitar, with the beat consistently speeding up and slowing down.

11. Big as a Mountain
A hard-hitting fast beat punctuated with a bass-drum-composed pause accompanied by guitar feedback. Buzz sings in this one (like all of the songs except for Echo Head and Glow God). This one ends a bit abruptly.

12. Heaviness of the Load
As the title suggests, it's pretty heavy. Feels like a dumptruck of heavy metal is continually dumping large quantities of... heavy things on you with roll of the drum. The lyrics seem to describe war and the American arrogance to spread its way of life to as many parts of the world as it can.

13. Flex With You
Hard-rockin' weird non-stop fast-fuck beats and neat guitar work. Halfway through the song begins the "main part", which has a more distinct verse and chorus riff, and vocals from Buzzy. One of my favorites from the album. The title of this song is actually taken from a line in the song that comes after this one.

14. Bitten Into Sympathy
Very slow and dark. Maybe it's about the self or the brain or the nervous system or something cool like that. I'm not entirely sure, sir.

15. Gluey Porch Treatments
YOU! The intro a little more mid-tempo, and the sung verses are pretty fast. The beat gets even more intense at the end with the final lines of the song!

16. Clipping Roses
This one's medium-tempo with a riff and a beat that sound like they'd be at home on Ozma (the album after this one). The lyrics are about, well, clipping roses.

17. As It Was
This is another re-recording of a song off of the debut EP, "Easy As it Was". Unpredictable but entertaining drumming, very slow. Matt Lukin supplies backing vocals on this song. Sort of somewhere between Black Flag and Black Sabbath.

18. Over From Under the Excrement
What a title! This is actually supposed to be a re-recording of "Over From Underground", an early Melvins song, I think. It's an instrumental song, so there are no lyrics or singing. Very slow and heavy. Very twisty and turny in its melody. Ends with a final blast of noizes.

Over twenty years later, this is still musically above the norm. It's STILL ahead of this time. A lot of punks back in the day hated this album and the Melvins because it was so slow, weird, and unlike anything they had ever heard before. I can see WHY someone would not like this. This is not conventional rock music -- it's largely experimental and dark. However, some of us DO get bored of listening to the same verse-chorus patterned music that's been around for ages. This music cures that sickness. Within the year after this album came out, Matt Lukin was kicked out of the band, and the Melvins relocated to California to continue their trade which continues to this very day. The band recruited Lori Black, also known as Lorax, and released Ozma after searching for a new label for a long time. As a result, the initial pressing of this record is somewhat hard to come by. But the Melvins re-released it on a CD with demos of the songs as well, so you can still easily listen to these songs!

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