I’d stolen this Freemason book from my Grandfather. It was pretty tight–it had lots of strange illustrations. My Grandfather wasn’t missing it. He was hallucinating things against the screen of ceiling tiles above his bed in the nursing home we’d outsourced him to. He was seeing dead people. I remember the last conversation I had with him: It was sort of ambiguous but I think he was trying to ask me to kill him. “But you do what you think is right, Tommy.” So I stole the Mason book.
So what we would do is on a Friday night–after consuming heroic doses of various illicit substances–we would call up our hero: the superhuman, the electric centaur. That is, Buzz Osbourne. And we would read into his voicemail, passages from the book. In retrospect, the whole procedure was almost like a strange form of prayer. Here’s an exemplary passage, chosen at random:
They are twins, fitly mated & as either gains control of the unfortunate subject, his soul withers away and decays, and at last dies out. The souls of half the human race leave them long before they die. “They cover all the skin of him that hath the plague, from his head even to his foot.” Even the raw flesh of the heart becomes unclean with it. Algebra applies to the clouds; the radiance of the star benefits the rose; no thinker would dare to say that the perfume of the hawthorn is useless to the constellations. Who, then, can calculate the path of the molecule? How do we know that the creations of worlds are not determined by the fall of grains of sand?
I think our concept was: Wow, wouldn’t it be fucked up to check your voicemail & that was what you heard? Who knows if he ever got the messages. Karl had gotten the number from some local record label-guy who also worked as a rock journalist. The record label that he worked for is long defunct. Probably it was a burner he’d had on tour for a time and then ditched. You have to understand this was back in a era of history when phones had cords. I’m dating myself here but it was before the Maggot/Bootlicker/Crybaby trilogy came out.
But who knows? Maybe he was still using that phone, and actually did receive those messages. As I recall, the phone rang the voicemail picked up, indicating that there was some kind of operational machinery at the other end.
If Buzz Osborne had ever actually answered the ring, we certainly would have shat ourselves and hung up without speaking to him.
At that time–we were freshmen & sophomores in high school respectively–and we pretty much felt about the Melvins the way that ancient, illiterate peoples thought about the hideous & profane demigods lurking in their sacred grove, awaiting human sacrifices to slake their thirst for blood, their hunger for the hidden life-force of humanoids. We were like: “O my God, that is so fucked.” (‘Fucked’, here, is a superlative, not a pejorative.)
We weren’t very coherent about the whole thing. Still aren’t, frankly. We’re now “working with” The Melvins–they’re on our flexi-disc series this year. To a large extent, I think it would be fair to say that Karl has devoted his life to arriving at this moment (the moment where he is “working with” the Melvins “on a thing”.)
The Melvins record that we listened to in heaviest rotation that school year was–as I recall–Honky. Which remains my favorite Melvins record. I also listened to Stag a lot, which unfortunately is only available in the form of a few live songs on Spotify. And when the trilogy came out, it was a very, very big deal.
So this playlist is in honor of that era–known colloquially as “the 90’s”–and includes strictly pre-trilogy stuff with a few live tracks recorded later so that some of Stag could be smuggled into the playlist.
In the creation of this playlist, I probably would have included “In the Freaktose, The Bugs Are Dying”(the final track on Honky) as the first track until I realized–or remembered–that there are over twenty minutes of silence tacked onto the end of the track.
These “Melvins”–who do they think they are? They are always playing with and manipulating with your expectations, and their use of the anticlimax & of negative space is unsurpassed by any group that I can think of who can be traced back & linked up, ancestrally, with Rock ‘N’ Roll.
Concealed in that silence at the end of Honky’s final track is no secret song at a pitch or decibel level discernible to the human ear, although who knows, maybe there’s a full-track of dog-whistles hidden in the seeming hush.
I wouldn’t put it past them.
Instead I just made sure to include “Laughing with Lucifer at Satan’s Sideshow” that immortal monument to another area where the Melvins reign supreme: sticking it to their record label.
If you like the Melvins, JNR recommends that you check out Dumb Numbers (w/ Drummer Dale Crover)