Two out of Seven Sins ain’t Bad
When Atlantic signed the Melvins in 1992, they must have thought this was the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Nirvana and the Seattle grunge scene were blowing up, and Kurt Cobain couldn’t stop talking about one of his greatest influences. Instead of an instant commercial success, however, Atlantic got Houdini â€šÃ„Ã® an assembly of down-tuned heavy riffs, thundering drums, and ear-splitting experimentation. Even Cobain’s presence on the album failed to produce a “single.”True fans understood the genius behind Houdini, leading to All Tomorrow’s Parties inviting the Melvins to perform the classic album live, in its entirety. The results were good, inspiring the Melvins to then take a stab at recording the effort. The result â€šÃ„Ã® Houdini Live 2005: A Live History of Gluttony and Lust.
Opening with the fast-paced hi-hat “tat-tat-tat-tat” of “Pearl Bomb,” the song builds as the guitar riff and Buzzo’s voice add intensity. While on the studio version this song leads directly into the lengthy noise assault of “Spread Eagle Beagle,” here they transition into the first song from the original Houdini session â€šÃ„Ã® the pummeling pseudo-metal of “Hooch.” The set follows the flow of the studio version for a few tracks, with an extended noisy intro to “Night Goat.” After a crushing live rendition of Kiss’s “Goin’ Blind,” the band veers off course again and starts jumping all over the last half of the album, creating new juxtapositions that shine just as strong as the original arrangements.
Buzzo admits that a third of the songs were never meant to be played live, making the performance a particular challenge for him, drummer Dale Crover, and fill-in bassist Trevor Dunn (Mr. Bungle, Fantomas). Unconventional tracks like “Sky Pup,” the aforementioned “Pearl Bomb,” and the 12-minute-plus percussive-noise jam of “Spread Eagle Beagle” are all performed excellently here. A successfully executed live album is one of the greatest testaments to a band’s skill, and here the Melvins deliver full force.