By Tom Reardon
Music is often about relationships.
If you’re in a band, for example, you have to deal with the other people in the band in almost every way you have to deal with a lover, without the exchange of bodily fluids. Sometimes the bodily fluids do get exchanged, though, and that is always a bad idea if you want the band to last. You need to look no further than Fleetwood Mac's history, for examples 1, 1A, and 1B, to see how this usually works out.
As a fan, we have relationships with music in many ways, too. We love it, and we hate it, and we tolerate it, just like a lover, really, and we also get soothed by it or agitated or motivated. Music makes us feel, and for that, at least, I am eternally grateful. The depths of my soul that have been plunged, fumigated, and lifted by music are numerous, and, sometimes, they reveal things that would have been better left unexplored.
In short, our relationship with music is vital, and without it, the world would be a very boring place. The very thought of the monotony that a music-free world makes me cringe a bit because it is the stuff of nightmares, really, and this is what brings me to discuss the music that is shaping my soul right now.
In the 1990s, or maybe even the late 1980s, someone hipped me to a band from Washington state called the Melvins. At first, I wasn’t sure what to think of them, to be honest, as my tastes at the time were definitely related and strongly tied to the weirdest of the weird, the Butthole Surfers. If it wasn’t the Surfers, in those days, I didn’t care too much to listen to anything that was less weird, but there was something about the Melvins that made them stick like a gooey and combative gunk on my shoe.
After seeing the band live, my fandom was cemented, primarily because of their drummer, Dale Crover. The guy plays drums the way they were meant to be played. He hits them hard, often, and in patterns that make drummers wince and bass players dream. Crover is the propulsive force that matches guitar player/singer Buzz Osbourne’s deftly fingered guitar wizardry stride for stride and spell for spell.
Crover also, though, has put out some really great solo records as of late and his new one, Rat-A-Tat-Tat! (Joyful Noise Recordings), is all the fuzzy weirdness my desperate ears needed to hear in this new year. “Shark Like Overbite” is so freaking catchy, for example, that just about anyone with a pulse will start tapping their toes almost immediately. Also, tracks like “Bowie Mix” and “Stumbler” will put a smile on your face and a skip in your step as you delve into their charming layers.
Bandmate and longtime Melvins collaborating recording engineer, Toshi Kasai, provides the knob-twiddling here, as well as some excellent additional instrumentation while allowing Crover to expand his solo sound to new heights on Rat-A-Tat-Tat! Steven McDonald, who also plays in the Melvins and Redd Kross with Crover, provides his ever-nimble bass playing to the mix, and his sound here is fat and fun, bringing some 70s basslines covered in sludge and even a little Beatles-esque riffage, too.
The record is similar enough to the Melvins that fans of the band will like it, but also different enough that new fans will be stoked to know that there are literally about 50 more records you can hear Crover play drums, guitar, or bass on to discover. It helps, too, that Crover is as cool a dude to talk to as he is a monster behind the drum kit, so it is easy to root for him and support his cause. Rolling Stone didn’t name him the 69th best drummer in rock and roll history for nothing.
I highly recommend picking up a copy of Rat-A-Tat-Tat! Today if you like your music warm, a little weird, and wired differently than your average bear. It’s not exactly easy listening, but you’ll feel better for it while you wait for your turn in the vaccination line.
See you next month, my friends, and may love find us all at the record store again one day.