(The) Melvins are a separate entity of sound entirely. There is not a single band that replicates the droned, broken sludge metal quite like they do. The heavy hitters in the grunge era come hot with the release of their fifth studio album, Houdini as a first major record label release; a turning point that would ensue on the Melvins’ career.
The percussion is a vital participant of Houdini and makes a substantial point to incorporate and smash the listener in a rage throughout each pulsing track. Houdini has these moments of broken, near crawling tracks that break the flow of action up and instead make the listener succumb to this overarching heaviness. Then other moments with “Night Goat”, Melvins are furious and driving behind their sound with the gut-wrenching screams of ”Buzz” Osborne who is known for his wild, and almost esoteric style that reached a broad audience. The Melvins is a band of pure experimentation that somehow managed to run the thin line of having a rhythmic back bone; finding immense success in the audacity.
Houdini even recruited Kurt Cobain as a producer, but Buzz later stated “We did a bunch of sessions with Kurt Cobain [producing], but it got to the point where he was so out of control that we basically fired him and went our separate ways, which is unfortunate, because I think that would have been fun.” The sound does not have a directly influenced style by Cobain in any way either as it focuses more on the underlying pulverizing of sound rather than any punk influence. Even as Buzz stated that the Melvins began as a hardcore punk band, the roots of the album are much deeper and involves a larger grasp of genre defining style. Not only is their ability stretched from the KISS cover “Goin’ Blind” or on “Honey Bucket”, two entirely differently styled tracks. But, there is a maintaining a general forward progression no matter the sound or style that Melvins adopt.
They are strange, off-putting at times, but ultimately entertaining through Houdini as it takes a variety of shape shifting forms before finally falling back into the comfort zones of “Sky Pup” or “Pearl Bomb” where the instrumentation is a little more direct and focused. The tracks still have that occult Melvins’ sound, but adapts and becomes something more bass focused than previously displayed.
Even as a three-piece, Melvins are fairly raw after being dug open from the top to bottom. They move as a giant in the core of genre, one that smashes the boundaries and adapts to their own personal style. They throw the rules out the window, become illicit bandits, and make one of the more attention grabbing albums of the 1990’s.