The Melvins play Houdini - Koko, Tuesday 4th October
Black Sabbath (and we're talking pre RJD here) have much to answer for. On the one hand there's Ozzy, a man once so wasted he doesn't remember trying to kill his wife whom we've patronised into becoming a national treasure in the bumbling village idiot mode. On the other, those dark crunching riffs, the sound of the blues trying to crawl out of the grave. Much of what has followed in the world of loud and nasty guitars did so either by slowing Sabbath down or speeding them up and their legacy is very much in evidence tonight.
First up it's London's Part Chimp who seem to have taken every other note out of Sabbath's repetoire and then turned the volume right up. It's like being punched repeatedly in the face with extreme violence and really s.l.o.w.l.y. By a doe-eyed clown. Using a brick. They're awesome, especially since they can also play really fast whilst still writing a nifty melody, a trait they share with tonight's headliners. They're playing the Barfly on the 26th November with Todd. Go!
Some light relief from the aural pounding is provided by San Franciscan art punkers Deerhoof who seem to have appropriated a little bit of everything, from surf guitar through to MOR all sort of wrapped up in East coast punk. They work best when diminuitive Japanese singer, Satomi Matsuzaki, steps away from the Gibson to act out the songs in the ancient art of Japanese arm and finger theatre. Also we don't think their bass player has any knees. They're warmly but somewhat reservedly received by the audience.
That's not how things are for The Melvins. Damn the security guys are earning their money tonight, pulling surfer after surfer out the crowd and looking increasingly pissed at all that boot dodging. That'll learn 'em. The sound driving these kids, half of whom can't even have been out of shorts when Houdini was first released, is of pure crunching hardcore distilled Sabbath, almost flippantly tossed off the wrist by a man in a combat smock with an insane electro-shock grey afro. Sideshow Bob meets Leatherface. Buzz 'King Buzzo' Osborne stands legs together roaring through an album considered to be as close to classic Melvins as possible. Not easy from a band who's output is as spread across limited short run singles as it is still available long players.
Behind him Dale Crover is beating eleven shades of shit out of his kit, driving the knife in the guts beat of the heavier than thou Hooch, or sending the moshpit into bubbling apoplexy during Honey Bucket. Despite garnering wider attention through the Cobain legacy during the reign of grunge, The Melvins tonight are metal as anything; the pounding fury reminiscent of so many thrash acts, not least at times, early Metallica. Their appropriation of metal and US punk and the catchy hard rock riffs that occasionally peek through the walls of molasses thick rumble pays homage to it's heritage with a joyful cover of The MC5's Rocket Reducer No. 62 (Rama Lama Fa-Fa-Fa). And then it's off with only a final farewell from Crover to acknowledge the battered bodies before them. It's been another fine show in ATP's Don't Look Back season and Londonist can only hope and pray that next year someone decides to add The Screaming Trees' Sweet Oblivion to the list. Now when do our ears stop ringing?