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the Melvins / Helmet, Slim's, San Francisco, 7/19/97

Melvins - Ladies and gentlemen, something is horribly wrong with the Melvins, but this is nothing new. Even though they've been around since 1986 and have put out 9 albums (putting them in the same league as U2 for album volume and longevity), I bet nobody has ever heard of them. Unlike U2, the Melvins have a habit of recording catchy little ditties like "gluey porch treatments", "show off your red hands", "pitfalls in serving warrants", and "harry lauders walking stick tree". Also unlike U2, they yell a lot in their songs. Oh yes, and they've also received complaints from at least one listener who had his eardrum ruptured at a past show. They're a little loud. And one final thing, if you take all the M's and N's out of U2, nothing really exciting happens, but with "Melvins"...

Well, since you've never heard of them, and will probably never go see them live, let me give you some handy tips for spotting these Melvins fellows (they do hang out in LA, after all):

  • King Buzzo - Looks like he was the subject of an intense, top-secret government nuclear chia hair experiment. Big fat award for best hair I've spotted in the SF area.

  • Mark Deutrom - Big ol' Jed Clampett cowboy hat.

  • Dale Crover - Speedo. That's all. Just a Speedo.

And yes, all the rumors are true, Shirley Temple's daughter used to be the bassist, under the name Lorax (no joke). Their brand of slow (at times), heavy metal drone is good stuff, but it just didn't click with me tonight. I wanted to run up to them afterwards and say "No, no, it's not's me", but unfortunately the Speedo Intimidation Factor was a little too high.

Helmet - Having not seen Helmet since 1991, I kind of wondered what they've been up to. Evidently, not a whole lot, because they sounded a lot like they did way back when. But then, there really isn't a whole lot they can do to develop their sound: Helmet creates just about the heaviest thrashing grindcore I can think of offhand, and from the first note, they almost incited a riot, launching the most active moshing I've seen in a while, much to the chagrin of the club owners, who had posted polite signs all around that said "No moshing, please". Kind of like serving Mike Tyson a big bowl of ear soup, if Helmet plays your club, you know what's coming next. Not surprisingly, it was "guys night out" at the show - there were only about fifteen women there in a crowd of well over two hundred.

But rampant testosterone is really the least interesting part of the Helmet story, and unfortunately the only thing they've really kept of their original ethos. One of the things that made Helmet a great band was that they really pushed the limits on rhythms in their songs - their drummer had a heavy background in jazz and consequently a lot of their songs have unusual time signatures which made them really interesting listening. So anyhow, they still played quite a lot of their old stuff which still sounded great. However, I'm going to stand my ground and say that they've just developed a bad case of suck on their two most recent albums, which are just about as interesting as a newspaper printed with clear ink - great litterbox filler, low on substance. (I highly recommend "Strap it On" for anyone who's brave enough.)

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