So while I’m listening to this album for review, I also end up reading this interview with Melvins’ lead singer/guitarist Buzz Osborne where he says “we’re not sludgy or slow.” Which is kind of a weird protest, because this is one of the sludgiest albums I’ve ever heard. Maybe he meant that they’re not so much sludgy and slow anymore, and fine, they’ve gradually lost the sludginess, with the last time they were very much so being in the mid-90’s. But, you know, people stopped paying attention to hard rock in the mid-90’s so their memory of you is frozen in amber. And you’re right, that makes them lazy. In the end it’s pretty much their loss since many of your best albums have come since then.
But anyway, after I read that quote and before I came to provide all the allowances of the previous paragraph, I was trying to figure out what he could possibly mean about the band not being sludgy, and that got me to thinking about what sludgy sounds like. I came up with three main features, all very present on this album, that define the sludgy sound of (early) Melvins. The first is the guitar, with virtually no high-end in it. The second is the slow tempo. And the third is that, as they’re blasting out these slow, muddy-sounding riffs, they’ve basically thrown out the concept of a measure. The riffs are several pairs-of-beats long (I defy you to pick out a definitive 1-beat), and the harmonic progression is one with so little standard tension/resolution that it recalls Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde. (Yeah, I just did that.) And so you’re listening to this riff, and you keep thinking it’s going to resolve after the next pair of beats, but then it just continues to go in unexpected directions, leaving you feeling like you’re trying to swim out of quicksand, not knowing if you’ll ever see the light of day again.
Anyway, since Six Songs was originally an EP (before it became Eight Songs and 10 Songs), this is considered Melvin’s debut LP, and, as with 26 Songs, I’m reviewing the Ipecac re-release. In this case, you get the original 17-song release, followed-up with another 12 tracks labelled as “unreleased garage demos,” all of which appear in final form on the original release of the album.
Normally those extra 12-tracks, in large part due to their horrible sound, would make me knock this release down a peg. But here it doesn’t because the crappy sound lends itself to what the band does on the final release anyway, and in some cases I think I like the rawness of the demo versions better than the final versions.
This came out in 1987. Do you remember 1987? This is what was being released on stand-up arcade games that year. I love listening to this album and looking at those graphics because I cannot juxtapose them in my head into the same decade, much less the same year.
This is basically perfect sludge-era Melvins. Along with Bullhead, this is the peak of this era of the band.
Mix: “Eye Flys,” “Echo/Don’t Piece Me,” “Steve Instant Neuman,” “Glow God,” “As It Was”
Love: “Heater Moves And Eyes,” “Happy Gray Or Black,” “Big As A Mountain,” “Heater Moves And Eyes (demo),” “Eye Flys (demo)”
Like: “Influence Of Atmosphere,” “Exact Paperbacks,” “Leeech,” “Heaviness Of The Load,” “Bitten Into Sympathy,” “Gluey Porch Treatments,” “Clippng Roses,” “Over From Under The Excrement,” “Echohead,” “Bitten Into Sympathy (demo),” “Glow God/Big As A Mountain,” “Heaviness Of The Load (demo),” “Happy Gray Or Black (demo),” “Gluey Porch Treatments (demo),” “Clipping Roses”
Meh: “Flex With You,” “Flex With You (demo),” “Don’t Piece Me,” “Exact Paperbacks (demo)”
Filed Between: Melvins’ The Crybaby and Electroretard
Song Notes: After the jump