Thursday, April 15, 2010

Review #95: The Melvins - Mangled Demos from 1983 (2005)


Year: 2005
Genre: Punk Rock
Hardcore, Grunge
Ipecac Records
43 Minutes (Long)
My Rating:

While the Melvins were and still are the kings of sludge, they had a quite swift and speedy upbringing. For many years, Melvins fans who came too late to hear this era first hand (a.k.a. most of them) found this stage in the Melvins' career to be somewhat murky and vague. The unknown. Haunted by Melvins Dragons and Melvins Monsters. The songs on the Deep Six somewhat touched on this older sound. "Forgotten Principles" was released on one of the many Amphetamine Reptile 7" singles in 1996. There were a few bootlegs around with some of these songs on them, but most of the song titles were wrong. Finally, in 2005, after years of waiting, Buzz Osborne finally dusts off some of these 22-year-old tapes and finally gets the album that could have been released for all of us! One pleasant feature of this album is the fact that it does contain a lengthy writing by the King himself on what his life growing up as one of the lone punks of Montesanto, Washington... great stories, especially if you grew up in a rural area like this. It's really interesting. Anyways, after all that took place, the band formed, originally consisting of Buzz Osborne, Matt Lukin, and Mike Dillard (the original drummer).

In this album, they play fast hardcore punk songs -- similar to Black Flag, the Germs... bands they were heavily influenced by. This album is actually somewhat historically significant in the sense that many consider Mangled Demos to contain what are the first grunge songs ever -- "Set Me Straight" and "Matt-Alec". They're basically two songs with a hardcore punk edge but a slower speed, and lots of distortion. In a sense, here, you are hearing the first grunge. And they're still kids, here! Well, it's a got a lot of songs -- some of them were recorded for an album that was never released because there were no record labels in the area until 1985 when C/Z Records formed. Some are just demos/jam sessions/live performances. So yeah, let's just dive in now, shall we?

1. Elks Lodge Christmas Broadcast

This part's great... it's an local old radio broadcast of a talent/fundraiser show called "Sunshine Kids" in Montesanto Washington... starts with an old guy with an acoustic guitar playing a soft, happy, family-friendly folk/country song. The two host men comment and seem to get slightly confused as the Melvins are tuning up their instruments, joking about how they "are about to get their sinuses cleared". The band members are interviewed, in the order of Matt Lukin, Buzz Osborne, and Mike Dillard. The younger interviewer tells the audience to get ready because the Melvins are about to play some "good PUNK rock"...

2. If You Get Bored (Live)

The Melvins say that they're going to play now, so we hear various snippets of some of the other songs they played. About a half-minute into the track, the Melvins begin to play "If You Get Bored". Buzz's voice is a lot more nasal than usual, but still snotty and confrontational. Lots of feedback. Just imagine the reaction the crowd must've had -- the Melvins were practically the only fans of punk in this whole area. Keep in mind that this is one of the first Melvins live performances ever! The song fades out just before the second chorus ends. The two host guys seem pretty glad to tell us that they are going to be next having some more "traditional" acts up for the Sunshine Kids Broadcast. The clip ends in one of the commentators joking about wether or not they were still alive after the Melvins performance...

3. Forgotten Principles
This is the first track from the 1983 studio session. Supposedly the studio they recorded this in was run by two hippies and in really bad shape. However, they were luckily able to record these songs! Like you may expect, it's a fast, snotty, thrasher with a shouted chorus of "FORGOTTEN PRINCIPLES". Buzz's vocals are as aggressive as the sound of the guitar, with a furious beat continuously punching you in the face. The song is just over a minute long.

4. Snake Appeal

One of their most famous hardcore-era songs... it was re-released on the debut EP, then on the later LP version of that record from 1991, and then a later demo version from 1984 was featured on the album "26 Songs". As for the song itself? Well, it's got a great, combative bass guitar, combined with more fucking awesome vocals and good guitar. It's just a shame it's not a little bit longer than it was. Sounds very Germs-esque, especially in the chorus part.

5. (Flower)

This one is very fast! The title is given as a small picture of a flower, but because I cannot find a flower symbol right now, I am going to just write it as "(flower)". Make sense? Anyways, the song is a pretty typical hardcore punk song with Buzz singing about how his parents steal his money from him even though he lost his job because "he's just a slob". The song ends in a slow part. End of Side 1.

6. If You Get Bored
We hear it once again! However, this version was recorded in the studio rather than live. The vocals are much more on-point and tough-sounding. Damn, this is a great, aggressive song if there ever was one. It just doesn't miss its mark. Few bands can sound this good consistently even in one song.

7. Set Me Straight
The "first grunge song". Well, it's pretty slow, the distortion is cranked up a notch. Really, it's not extremely different from what a lot of hardcore punk and noise punk bands were doing already, playing an occasional slower song, but I guess since this song's a little heavier and the Melvins being near Seattle and everything, some find it appropriate to call it that. Buzz's vocals just fit perfectly with his guitar sound. Hear him practically growl like a wild animal after singing a line. The drumming of course, sounds good, too. Not as good as on "Matt-Alec", but we'll get to that later. This song was later re-recorded for a 1986 studio session and then again in 1993 for their major label debut, "Houdini".

8. (Star)
I like this one a lot! It's very fast, it has a fun riff, more good, confrontational vocals. It's pretty short, but legit. Buzz says "boy" or "boi" a lot... I'm not sure what that meant... perhaps a parody of the shouted phrase "Oi"? I know the skinheads hated the Melvins early on in their career. Or maybe I'm just reading into this too much. Anyways, good song.

9. I'm Dry

Once again, great song. It's fast, not like the track before it -- more in the way of "Snake Appeal" or "If You Get Bored". The vocals hit the edges of every fucking curve. Shame no one appreciated them back then.

10. Forgotten Principles

This is pretty much a distorted version of the version of Forgotten Principles in track 3. I'm not even sure why they put this one on the record. Maybe just a typical Melvins weird moment. Basically the guitars sound all weird and Buzz's voice seems to have been slowed down. End of Side 2.

11. I Don't Know

Another very fast song. However, about midway through the song, it goes into a slower, instrumental section with a guitar solo that resembles the music from "the Nutcracker". Or maybe just a coincidence. A ca-winky-dink. Heheheh.

12. Matt-Alec

Possibly one of the greatest songs the Melvins have ever written. It's another song on here that we could classify as being an early grunge tune, with its slow tempo, exemplifying the now-conventions of the genre moreso than "Set Me Straight". Awesome, growly vocals from Buzz angrier than a buzz-saw!

13. The Real You

The last studio recording. Starts with an intro of bass-guitar and bass-drums before it explodes into the song. It's probably my least favorite of the songs from this section of the album. I dunno, just not as interesting or powerful as the other songs. Still good by any means, though.

14. Run Around

This is from a demo tape, so the quality isn't quite as good as the songs before it. However, still great quality for a tape from 1983! If there's one thing the Melvins had going for them back then, it was good equipment. Somehow. The tempo is sort of the same as "Snake Appeal". There's a little solo in the song.

15. Keep Away From Me

This one's a tad faster. Similar to the songs like (Flower) and (Star) before it, but not quite as entertaining, production or riff-wise.

16. ♣

There! I was able to find an actual symbol for this one! This one's pretty good. It's very fast. I love the melodies/riffs they use in this one. It's pretty diverse in its usage of a midsection as well as verses and a chorus and stuff. Very short. Just one minute long. End of Side 3.

17. Bibulous Confabulation (During Rehearsal)

A five-minute recording of the band members arguing amidst a rehearsal. Starts out with Matt and Mike arguing over a hamburger and french fries. Some guitar-playing can be heard in the background. Mike is accused of drinking out of someone else's bottle and puking into it. Pretty funny if you want to hear some of the interaction between the band during its early years.

18. ╬

A pretty catchy song. Buzz's vocals are somewhat muffled by the loudness of the other instruments, but it's all cool. There's a little thing Buzz does with his guitar during the chorus that sounds really cool.

19. (Pencil)

Man, why the hell couldn't they have just come up with NEW NAMES for these songs if the original titles were so hard to find that they had to replace them with fucking symbols? Well, it's a fast song. The riff reminds me a teeny bit of the one for "Pay to Cum" by Bad Brains.

20. Matt-Alec

Once again, we hear the same song twice. Like "If You Get Bored", "Forgotten Principles", and, well this. Pretty much the same song, except the quality is slightly dirtier, and Buzz's voice is a lot harder to hear. Ends with a clip of some British guy on the radio talking.

21. Walter

A 3-minute instrumental song. Great riff. One person actually pointed out that seven years later Green Day ended up producing a song that sounded almost identical to this. Coincidence? Who knows! Not a whole ton I can say about it, other than like all of the other songs here, it rocks, and there's no lyrics or vocals.

22. (Scissors)

I don't even know why they included this one as a track... it's just one second of tape hiss followed by complete silence for about twenty seconds. What? Is there something I missed? Did the Melvins indeed write the FASTEST PUNK SONG EVER?? Like, a song SO FAST, SO HARDCORE that it was so short that it could not be sensed by the human ear and only by certain species of dog? The fucking ESSENCE OF THRASH. "5643-Song EP" by Anal Cunt doesn't have shit on this bitch.

23. (Airplane)


Well, that's all there is for now. Perhaps there was more the Melvins did in those days that is yet to be revealed... probably not. Well, it's extremely generous in my opinion that the Melvins decided to release this in the first place... I mean, there are only two known live dates the Melvins ever even performed in 1983. And this stuff is better than a lot of other hardcore punk from the era. Well, slowly, the Melvins got more exposure and started playing shows alongside other punk bands that visited the Seattle area. The band went on to master the hardcore punk genre, climaxing in godly pieces such as "She Waits". However, more importantly, the band's slowness was there to stay, and pretty soon afterwards became their most prominent characteristic. This, they say, was the birth of grunge. In 1985, some people noticed that the Seattle music scene was beginning to change, producing actual quality original music (it is said that the scene was mostly dominated by lame cover-bands before this period), and the Melvins were one of the first bands they signed. This was C/Z Records. Some post-Mangled Demos but pre-Six Songs songs can be found on "Deep Six", the first C/Z Records release ever. The second record they put out was a six-song vinyl EP for the Melvins. The band's sound became slower and heavier as time went out, eventually churning out songs up to 12 minutes long just on the sheer monstrosity of it all. But that, my friends, is another tale, which has been talked about and will be talked about in other reviews. This is the beginning of the Melvins. If you like the Germs, Black Flag, or Flipper, you'll probably love this.

Top 3 Favorites:

1. Matt-Alec

2. If You Get Bored

3. (Star)


1 comment:

  1. my 3 favorite songs from this album are exactly same as yours. yeah the stories Buzz wrote there were interesting. Funny how Krist Novoselic still lives in the fucked up place they all grew up at.