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Melvins - Houdini Live 2005: A Live History of Gluttony and Lust

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Artist: Melvins

Album: Houdini Live 2005: A Live History of Gluttony and Lust

Label: Ipecac

Review date: Jun. 3, 2006

Both Ipecac and Melvins have a history of curio style releases, which makes this LP an accident waiting to happen. Born of the All Tomorrows Parties Don’t Look Back ‘do an LP live’ series, this lacks the sweat and pep of a live show. Amusing liner notes don’t make up for the effort’s pointlessness.

The argument over what a live album is for and what it should do continues to be a hugely subjective one. For Melvins fans, this is another representation of the band’s best work; a record touched by the hand of Saint Kurt Cobain of junksville and their major label debut. For casual fans of Buzz’s ability to spit out riffs like a sausage factory conveyor belt, it’s a poor toothless cousin to the original Houdini.

For long stretches it’s impossible to even tell it’s even being played live. Some could take that as a sign that the band kick mucho ass, being able to walk it note for note like they talk it. I’m in the camp that’s heard Houdini and doesn’t see the need for a copy that’s dips in both the energy and production stakes. Houdini Live 2005 is suffering from mild malnutrition; something is missing. The original still leaves 13 aural dinosaur footprints of steel, flesh, wood and bellowing all the way from 1993. These takes aren’t totally incompetent, just unnecessary and lapping in sap. The only time Melvins have really ever fucked up their own songs is with Lustmord’s help on Pigs of the Roman Empire. It’s the subtle differences here that make all the difference on this version. On the real Houdini, Dale Crover’s showcase “Spread Eagle Beagle” is an angry riposte to prog’s pot bellied solos; here, it’s just prog. Buzz’s riffs don’t seem as fiery, plagues don’t follow in the wake of his voice and he sounds like he’s wearing a side parting as opposed to the infamous afro.

There’s no need to get excited at Fantômas’ Trevor Dunn standing in for long-since-deposed bassist Lorax Black; the difference is negligible. Dunn is not doing Dunn, he’s doing impressions. This is a memento of a great idea but a poor reminder of a series of shows that was probably as furiously focused and hairy backed as a matador-fed bull. In a direct taste test comparison, this CD sounds pasteurized and as floppy as grilled vinyl. A bit of left and right latitude, a bit of amphetamine pep wouldn’t have gone amiss for a band normally so keen to take convention from behind. I’ll stick with what I’ve got, thanks.

By Scott McKeating

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