I saw the Melvins play one night, and the next day they were my favorite band. I had just gotten my driver's license, and Ozma became a continuous soundtrack in Suzy, my parents' white Subaru hatchback. But when I had to give my little sister rides to the mall, to her friend's house, or wherever, Melvins tapes were guaranteed to provoke serious eye-rolling and whining. One summer day, I was taking her and a friend to their volleyball camp and I was playing Ozma. This time, her friend spoke out against the Melvins. "This is dungeon music," she criticized. But so what if the Melvins started playing music in a dark, damp basement or garage? People in a dungeon have to listen to something.
The Melvins live in L.A. now, where it never rains. They look at palm trees and beautiful people all day long. They probably have nice wives or girlfriends, dreamy musical equipment, and cool cars. But the old saying's true on The Crybaby -- you can take the band out of the dungeon, but you can't take the dungeon out of the band. This is the third album in the trilogy kindly dedicated to the weakest among and within us: The Maggot, The Bootlicker and now, The Crybaby. They have recruited pals and acquaintances who know a thing or two about dungeons as well: Mike Patton of Faith No More/Mr. Bungle, Jim Foetus, and Tool, among others.
This final installment in the series is almost like a mix tape from the Melvins, showing us what they think good music is, and who makes it. Every song on the album involves a guest appearance, with some guests even collaborating with the Melvins on the writing. For the most part, the mix they've assembled is consistently good: wild, strong, heavy rock. But as usual, the Melvins take us by surprise, too. They do two Hank Williams songs, and turn out a cover of "Smells Like Teen Spirit." I'm not sure what they were trying to do with that cover; it's the only song on the album that is kind of weak. Instrumentally, it is a straightforward cover. The weird part is hearing Leif Garrett, the death-defying ex-teen idol, belting out an over-dramatized interpretation of a song we all know was written by a more talented guy who is unfortunately dead. Maybe the theme is that life ain't fair.
So the serpent has taken its tail into its mouth and created a circle. The Melvins have finished an epic trilogy, and it rocks. When it's my time to go, put me on a rack in the Melvins' dungeon and pull me apart. JUAN-CARLOS RODRIGUEZ
(Kill Rock Stars)****
Cadallaca's first record was a near-masterpiece of ambivalence, a collection of good-to-great songs laboring under such shoddy production values that many people were tempted to reject it outright, or at least dismiss it as a bunch of sub-par Sleater-Kinney outtakes. Even the band seemed unsure of just what they had, with organist/vocalist Sarah Dougher making do with a number of jarring flat notes, and Sleater-Kinney queen Corin Tucker hobbling one of her finest songs ("June & July") with a tinny, barely demo-worthy recording. But only in comparison with the consistently rigorous Sleater-Kinney could the songs on Introducing Cadallaca be considered anything close to sub-par, and with their full-blooded live shows, Cadallaca (also featuring hottie drummer STS) came into their own.
So now here's a new EP, featuring four good-to-great songs immaculately produced, and, surprise, it's a knockout. As usual, the most immediate pleasure is Corin, released from the mathematical rigor of her other band and free to indulge her inner actress. The title track has her treading on P. J. Harvey's high-drama blues territory (leavened with some goofy spaghetti Western role-playing), while the punkish "Trouble with Public Places" catches her snarling about the asshole-heavy rock club scene. (That I was able to decipher enough of the lyrics to detect this is a testament to Tucker's newfound and much appreciated use of consonants.) Corin and Sarah split vocal duties on the slight but lovely "Fake Karaoke Machine," but it's Sarah's solo that gives Out West it's finest three-and-a-half minutes. "Scarface" blends the band's girl-group leanings with a creepy tale of fucked-up love and physical impairment, and somehow ends up being that object of envy and honor, the "perfect pop gem." More, please. DAVID SCHMADER
In Stores April 4
BIG PUNISHER, Yeeeah Baby (Loud/Columbia) Oh look, in the afterlife they even quote Austin Powers.
CHUMBAWAMBA, What You See Is What You Get (Republic/Universal) The incredibly lucky anarchists return with 22 tracks about what's wrong with you and your friends.
RAH DIGGA, Dirty Harriet (Elektra) Debut album from the first lady of Busta's Flipmode Squad, with a guest appearance from the first lady of the Ruff Ryders, Eve.
TRAVIS, The Man Who (Epic/Independiente) Hey, it's new to us.
THE MONKEY WRENCH, Electric Children (Estrus) Side project-a-go-go from Mudhoney's Mark Arm and Steve Turner, Tim Kerr, Martin Bland, and Gas Huffer's Tom Price.
SUPERGRASS, Supergrass (Island) Despite the band landing a song on the Clueless soundtrack years ago, the American market has ignored these young Britpoppers.
THE BUSY SIGNALS, Baby's First Beats (Sugar Free) Lo-fi indie made with an 8-track and a sampler. Now that's something you don't see every day.