Thursday, June 29, 2006

Melvins / Houdini Live 2005: A Live History of Gluttony and Lust / Rating: 5.7

“But while it is a little interesting to hear the band revisit some of these songs, ultimately these louder, slightly faster versions pale in comparison to the originals, leaving A Live History of Gluttony and Lust far from essential.”

I had to ask (especially as a once upon a time huge fan of the Melvins), was this faux live Melvins record remotely necessary? Reading the below quote from Buzz helped to put the recording into perspective but it still didn’t spell out essential for me and it took only one listen to the record to prove it. A band can explain a record to death; give it great purpose and meaning in an interview but when the music is left alone to speak for itself, Houdini Live 2005 fails to amaze.

Message from Buzz:

"…We figured it was our duty to put this out as a live record since we went to the trouble of RE-LEARNING all of the songs, a third of which we never ever intended to play live. Figuring out HOW to play some of them was problematic but it worked out beautifully. The shows in London and Dublin went great. Unfortunately we didn't hit upon the idea of the live record until after the shows were over. This was a dilemma that could only be remedied by recording another show, and that wasn't easily done. Not only did we have a limited amount of time, locating a suitable venue and assembling the recording equipment was a BITCH. In the end, we couldn't find a venue that would work on such short notice so we rented a warehouse in Vernon, just south of LA, set up the gear and rehearsed all afternoon for our invitation only performance that evening. Then after running through the show twice, we took the tapes to the studio, picked out the best songs of the two sets, mixed them and mastered them onto this CD. DONE! In the exact same order we played them. "

In theory this re-recording of Houdini makes sense but when you start adding up the details, the record’s power and meaning begins to shrink.

This isn’t the real deal audio scrap book recording of their set as it unfolded live at the festival in front of thousands. Instead it is a stiff re-creation minus all the one of a kind energy one would normally get from a band playing in front of an audience.

This is an after thought recording session and it shows but who can blame a band for wanting to cash in on the grueling process of re-learning an entire record from front to back. When the band tells us one third of this material was not meant to be played live, they mean it.

Mixing the best parts from two rehearsal room sets is cheating. This also challenges the idea of what a “live” recording actually means. Not only is this not the actual recording from the All Tomorrow’s show, this isn’t a live (in front of a crowd) performance either.

Sorry Buzz but this is a compiled practice space recording that when pieced together happens to recreate Houdini but not in the original track listing order. Calling it Live 2005 (even though it does rhyme) is false advertising.

Worst of all, this rearranged and extended lackluster “live” version of a classic record doesn’t come close to the cement shower this band pummels their audience with in normal live setting. It's safe to say 99.5% of all Melvins fans will also prefer the original recording of Houdini over this one. I am barely willing to call this new cd a worthy companion piece to the og.

I won’t mess with the Pitchfork rating but I will suggest to any band who likes to put out a record every 6 months that maybe a few of their releases should be a fan club only thing. Think limited. Think only available at the merch table on tour. Make it a download only record or maybe even a limited mail order thing from your web page. Just because you can make art and record it doesn’t mean every stitch of it needs to be shared with the world.

Assuming your fans will dish out money for every little thing you decide to shit out will eventually work against you (besides revealing the size of your ego) but then again the best part about the Melvins is I know they know this and they still don’t give a fuck. Some people might thrive on hate but this band has learned to make a living from it. More power to them, I guess.

Melvins - Fucking you loudly and often since 1984 … because they can.

PS: Why the hell can’t this band keep a bass player around for more than a tour or a recording session?