But you sure as hell don't think about them. You'd be wasting precious brain cells that could be better burnt huffing gasoline. Or so the common knowledge goes: The Melvins are heavy; they're a joke-metal band; they (or, more specifically, he -- head Melvin King Buzzo) taught Kurt Cobain how to rock; they are the slowest metal band ever.
All true, but also a huge underestimation of the power and glory of the Melvins, Kings of Rock, cerebellum-bangers, multifaceted tour de force. It goes unrecognized that, starting on their remarkable Stag album, the band has been dabbling with nuance and beauty; that for every drudge in the Melvins' repertoire, there's always been a dash of wimpiness that offers a revealing angle. But they've never completely submitted to their delicate, girly-man side.
The second volume of an, er, trilogy, the first being early '99's The Maggot and the third being the upcoming The Crybaby (and you thought only Master P could bang out three records in a year), The Bootlicker is the closest the Melvins will ever come to making a pop record, even if their version of pop is a far cry from Britney's. King Buzzo, he of the Sideshow Bob haircut, whispers and moans in a way that precludes, of course, radio play, but he sings here rather than tossing off his usual irony-laden, faux-metal bellow. There he is in all his menacing glory, huffing into the mic, forming evil without the aid of screaming. Of course, it's not a Melvins record if Buzzo doesn't get all deep and grunty on us every once in a while, and he does; but this never arrives when it usually does, and even these grunts have some restraint to them.
The Bootlicker is chock-full of jingle bells and piano tinks, synthesizer freakouts and pretty ditties (despite its title, "Up the Dumper" has a poppy melody to die for), intentionally clumsy guitar lines and rolling bass patterns (courtesy of ex-Cows freako Kevin Rutmanis), all combined to create some sort of elusive "concept" (the faint snippet of a live version of "Smells Like Teen Spirit" probably has some meaning, but it's hard to say). Five bucks says you can't verbalize the concept, but the Melvins undoubtedly could -- because, despite their lineage, they've got a lot going on upstairs.
The Bootlicker will throw your average Melvinshead for a loop. It's really not that hard. And because of the group's history, none of your indie rockers or Americana hayseeds is going to touch it. That's a shame, because it's one of the best rock albums of the year: truly beautiful and intelligently (but not pretentiously) presented. The Melvins fuckin' rule, even when they're going soft on us.