Review: Melvins – Nude With Boots

Here’s another year and there’s another record from The Melvins.

This one, an 11-track outing titled Nude With Boots, sows some familiar territory — namely the grungy thrash of 2006’s excellent A Senile Animal –– but even when these guys are rehashing or revisiting parts of their work, the result can sound refreshingly new.

The disc begins with a pair of tracks that are conventional album-openers as much as they are passionate tributes to the Kiss mantle: “The Kicking Machine” and “Billy Fish.” On the former, guitarist and frontman King Buzzo unleashes angular guitar chops that could have triggered crowd roars on Alive!, ones that snake between the tight trap-beats of dueling drummers Coady Willis and Dale Crover. On the latter, Buzzo barks “Wake up! Come on!” over a distorted but fluid refrain that wouldn’t have been out of place on Tool’s Aenema.

Elsewhere, The Melvins refine some of the sludge-and-storm of their Houdini heyday, offering the pseudo-epic “Dog Island” or the 1-2-3-4 stomp of “The Stupid Creep,” which could have been a B-side from A Senile Animal.

What makes the record, all 40-odd minutes of it, more than your average bit of punk-metal or, dare I say, modern grunge, though, are the bizarre touches and the attempts to stray from the tried and true. “Dies Iraea,” with its reverb-laced guitars, drum rolls and background whistles, could narrate some long-lost spaghetti western. And Buzzo even flirts with the blues on “Suicide In Progress,” whose early kicking gives way to a careful walk of guitar, bass and drums.

There are missteps, to be sure.  The short “Flush” is little more than Prick-style ambient noise or transitional asides and the five-minute meltdown “It Tastes Better Than The Truth” is tacked onto the record’s end like an afterthought. (What the hell is he screaming over all that claptrap – “It looked just so?”)

But even the occasional error, if you’re want to call it that, is erased with gems like the perfectly titled “The Smiling Cobra,” whose anthemic guitars and pounding drums are bred to incite a riot. Or the radio-ready title track. Or the moody plodding of “The Savage Hippy,” where Buzzo’s guitar becomes unchained in a haze of white noise and feedback.

The record’s a suitable introduction to new listeners – a compact summation of why the groups is so heralded in the first place – and a welcome addition to fans left transfixed after A Senile Animal, the group’s debut as a quartet. What better way to end the final third of the year?

Now, let’s see if we can sneak a preview of what 2009 will bring.

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