Near the end of the Melvins' ill-fated stint on Atlantic, the band videotaped a real estate agent leading singer and guitarist Buzz Osborne through a huge mansion; Osborne looks around thoughtfully and announces he'll take it. Great, the agent says, and how are you going to pay? He opens up a thick folder of Melvins press clips and starts laying them out, describing the band's enormous influence on the history of underground rock. I don't understand, the agent says. Well, he explains, I figured I could just trade in all this credibility I've got. That moment sums up the band's 16 years to date--they're blessed in reputation but cursed in business. They aren't entirely innocent victims of the machine, though: in 1992, during the first swell of notoriety Kurt Cobain's friendship brought the band, they sabotaged themselves with a cryptic, unmarketable trio of solo albums parodying the records the members of Kiss put out in '78. The Melvins' latest high-concept extravagance is a three-disc series coming out on Ipecac: The Maggot, released a few weeks ago; The Bootlicker, due soon; and The Crybaby, expected in November (which will include collaborations with Beck, Hank Williams III, and, singing "Smells Like Teen Spirit," Leif Garrett). Alongside Osborne and drummer Dale Crover, The Maggot features probably their 87th bassist, Kevin Rutmanis, formerly of the Cows. It's the most straight-up metal album the band has ever made, all choppy detuned chords and one-note snarls, but that doesn't inhibit their fondness for musical extremes and strange gestures. The first two songs are both called "Amazon," one whiplash hardcore and the other a menacing ooze, and every tune on the CD contains an arbitrary track division--you can program the beginning of one song to segue into the end of another. The disc's highlight, though, is a cover of Fleetwood Mac's "The Green Manalishi" by way of Judas Priest, slowed way down and frozen brittle but still prickling with psychedelic horror. Friday, 10 PM, Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee, 773-489-3160, and Saturday, 9 PM, Fireside Bowl, 2646 W. Fullerton, 773-486-2700; the Cosmic Psychos open both shows. On Saturday at 2 PM the Melvins play a free in-store concert at Quaker Goes Deaf, 1937 W. North; 773-252-9334. DOUGLAS WOLK
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Don Lewis.