Though metal has never been much known for producing the brightest musical bulbs -- Yngwie Malsteen excepted, of course -- it occasionally pushes out a litter of geniuses, those with the proper combination of reverence, skepticism and good humor to create metal that has nothing to do with IQ and everything to do with brains.
The Melvins, as we preach often to anyone willing to listen, is one of the greatest rock bands on Earth, one with a knack for squeezing out perfect or near-perfect records that seems to improve even as the group's output increases -- which is a stupid brainiac way of saying this: The Melvins rule, and they have since their early years as part of the Seattle grunge explosion. Theirs was the sound that captured the imagination of the city's more famous rock-dude heroes, and while the rest of Seattle was cashing in as quickly as they were compromising their sounds, the Melvins too signed on the major-label dotted line -- only to let loose with some of the weirdest and most experimental hard-rock records ever released on a major label. These records -- Houdini, Stoner Witch and Stag -- mix gut-growling post-Sabbath dirt-rock with the urgency of punk and a keen, eye-winking sense of humor that never allows itself to be taken too seriously.
Every heart-wrenching bellow is tethered to the self-awareness and wits to understand the implications of a serious heavy-metal shriek. It's as if each shriek is footnoted, and if that dictates the Melvins' inclusion in some sort of post-metal camp, theirs is a camp of one, bursting with greenery and blossoms.
In the past year, three Melvins records have arrived: the concept triplet of The Maggot, The Bootlicker and The Crybaby. The concept is elusive (and probably nonexistent). The first, The Maggot, is a flat-out metal album, one of the greats of 1999; the second, The Bootlicker, is softer and more textured, the closest the band has ever come to making a pop record. The third, The Crybaby, is a hoot, a hard- rocker that contains a great version of "Smells Like Teen Spirit" as interpreted by Leif Garrett and guest appearances by Hank Williams III, Tool, Bliss Blood, Skeleton Key, Foetus and Mr. Bungle's Mike Patton.
In all, and we can't scream this loud enough: The Melvins rock, and you should go see them, especially on this night, because the openers are, yes, the Melvins. They're supporting themselves, doing an opening performance, followed by the requisite break, then returning for a headline gig. Do not miss.