Eugene Weekly : Music : 8.6.09

Fearless Leaders
The Melvins always put a twist on their music
by Vanessa Salvia

Once again, the Melvins prove they don’t color within the lines. Each of the 15 tracks on the band’s new CD, Chicken Switch, due out Sept. 29 on Ipecac Records, is a remix, but not of just one song — each track is a remix of an entire Melvins album.

Singer/guitarist Buzz Osborne’s opinion about it could be summed up with his response to my first statement in our recent phone interview:

Me: “It’s not what I expected.”

Osborne: “Mission accomplished.”

The project was spearheaded by a friend of the band who selected the remixers and created the album’s artwork (which Osborne’s wife has done for every Melvins album since 1993). “It was a real departure for us,” Osborne says. Osborne did not want the remix album to sound just like the originals. “I absolutely did not want that to happen,” he says. “I wanted it to be something that you wouldn’t just get from buying any of our records. I knew it was going to be weird, and that’s what I wanted.”

It’s weird, all right. If you’ve learned to appreciate the experimentalism of their 1994 album Prick, you might find your way to a truce with this one. Remixers include Matmos, Lee Ranaldo, Merzbow, V/Vm and David Scott Stone, Melvins’ guitarist/bassist for about six years.

Perhaps the track most true to the original source material is Ranaldo’s. While there are snatches of recognizable bits throughout the disc, and some track titles provide a clue to the parent album, most tracks are a wash of distortion and noise. (The band won’t be playing any of the remixes on stage.) Osborne is pleased, even if he himself can’t tell where most of the sounds come from.  

Osborne expressed chagrin at the opinion that the Melvins “just screw with people” through their music. “If we wanted to screw with people, that’s a really easy thing to do. If people think that’s what we’re doing then they really have no intimate understanding of what it is that motivates us,” he says. “I have a love of music. I also have a love of originality, and surprises. People should expect that what they’re going to get from us is … not the usual. I have no idea what our audience likes. I only know what I like, and I would like this record, so there you go.” -— Vanessa Salvia

The Melvins. 7:30 pm Sunday, Aug. 9. John Henry’s • $15. 21+