Nude With Boots
posted on 7/2008 By:
Counting up all their albums (EPs, LPs and collaborations) since their formation around 1983, the Melvins have unleashed 25 albums on the world. Nude With Boots marks number 26. That’s the type of prolific output that might make even old Johnny Cash take note. Admittedly, there’s a fair portion of this pool of Seattle sludge that I actually find unlistenable. The experimental, droning warbly “noise” albums they’ve put out interest me about as much as the big band vocal stylings of Michael Bublé, which is to say not at all. In fact I think they suck. The majority of Nude With Boots is far from the Melvins’ “noise experiment” albums of the past, and it certainly doesn’t suck.
In fact, it’s pretty goddamned good. It comes two years after the band absorbed bass guitarist Jared Warren and drummer Coady Willis for (A) Senile Animal. The duo, otherwise known as Big Business, stuck around for the present album in a rare display of member retention. My initial impression of Nude was that it was pretty good, but not quite as immediately gripping as Animal. The 2006 effort just seemed more raw, more dirty – more METAL – and that’s what daddy likes. However, after repeated listens, the follow-up has grown on me. Sure, Nude With Boots is a gentler beast, but the composition is just a little more thoughtful than Animal’s organic-sounding affront.
The album itself sounds like the Melvins doing rock ‘n roll. For any established Melvins fan, that should be confusing. They’ve been playing rock ‘n roll for a quarter century now, right? Well, yeah, but never with this much emphasis on the “roll” part of the equation. I won’t try to guess which bands you’ll think these songs owe the most to, but there is a decided early ‘70s vibe going on here for most of the album. Unfortunately for me, a couple tracks do dip into the “noise” category.
Album opener “The Kicking Machine” is one of the album’s strongest tracks. It picks up where Animal left off, but expands on that sound, much as the whole of the album does, in a refreshing but familiar direction. “Billy Fish” rocks hard and “Dog Island” lurches forward, solidifying the top of the album in a trinity of greatness. Sadly, the fourth track kills the momentum.
I’m told that this song “Dies Iraea” is influenced by the Dies Irae, or the Day of Wrath, which is a 13th century hymn with an accompanying melody. The song has found its way into popular culture, perhaps most prominently copped as the intro to the movie The Shining. Fault me if you must, but I don’t give a crap. Some fans may get into the dirge-like instrumental, but when it comes to the Melvins, I wanna rock. The misstep of “Dies Iraea” is quickly righted by the slinky “Suicide in Progress,” which focuses on Buzz Osborne’s vocals instead of the group chorus heard so often lately. An inexplicable 50-second outro that sounds like shifting tectonic plates and the tinkling of silverware against ceramic makes one wonder: “Are these guys fucking with me?” It’s not unheard of, you know (see http://www.melvins.com). Either way, “The Smiling Cobra” quickly reassures, presenting the most classically Melvins song offered here. “Flush” is another throwaway track, but it only sucks a brief 1:07 of wind out of the album. The final three songs get progressively more discordant and experimental, with album closer “It Tastes Better Than the Truth” approaching my aforementioned listenability border, but somehow remaining interesting.
Nude With Boots is a roller coaster ride, and its discontinuity keeps the listener on his or her toes. There’s enough straight-ahead Melvins-rock here to generalize it in that way, but the album’s nuances and oddities make it a complex foray into the weird. If you give it enough time I think you’ll find it to be of the same quality as (A) Senile Animal, and of a similar cloth. The Melvins have marked their 25th anniversary with one foot in the comfort of their established sound, one foot exploring the more modern tendencies begun on (A) Senile Animal and one foot tapping away to their early ‘70s heroes.
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