Release Date: Jun 3, 2014
Record label: Ipecac
Buzz Osborne's first solo album is clearly an effort to avoid the shackles of the modern singer–songwriter–goes–acoustic clichÃ©. Usually when an established performer releases an acoustic album, he does it to provide some sort of insight into himself. Our generic singer–songwriter sings in a gentler voice to conjure up some manufactured texture of sentiment.
Sometimes the great ones just don’t know when to quit. Less often, the great ones quit too soon. Legendary grunge/skuzz progenitor Buzz Osborne?he of the mighty Melvins?just plain old shouldn’t quit doing anything but keep on keepin’ on. There’s no more proof needed than the release of his first solo LP, This Machine Kills Artists.
Though it might not go down in history as quite the same sort of watershed moment, This Machine Kills Artists, the new acoustic album from Melvins frontman Buzz Osborne, could be considered the negative bizarro “Dylan goes electric. ” The sludge metal legend has been slinging his electric axe since the early ’80s, carving out a mischievous niche for himself via barreling howls and humongous riffs. Suffice it to say, the idea of Osborne toting around an acoustic surely caused more than a few double takes.
Some of the heaviest musicians on the planet can commune beautifully with the quietude of folk. Buzz “King Buzzo” Osborne has been faithfully dredging the depths of his own sludge ocean since 1983, when Melvins established the molasses-in-January pace for waves of grunge-mongers and extreme metalheads to come—but Osborne's always had a way with a tune, and one of the reasons The Melvins have lived long and prospered is the fact that he’s so adept at wringing weird hooks out of the primordial muck. Folk, though, can bring out the stuffiest and most sober sides of songwriters—especially those who are more accustomed to letting the volume knob do the talking.
This Machine Kills Artists sees Melvins’ Buzz Osborne – aka King Buzzo – make his first steps into the acoustic world. The title of the album is an appropriation and re-working of the words “This Machine Kills Fascists” which was scrawled on Woody Guthrie’s guitar back in 1941 and came to define the notion of the folk outlaw. What Osborne is referring to is less clear, but as someone that has pretty much done things their own way since the inception of Melvins back in 1983, it’s possible to read the title as a critique of the music industry’s stifling machinations, with the existence of this album proving that this is one artist that has escaped the machine.
After nearly 30 years in the Melvins, it's hard to say how much guitarist and founder King Buzzo -- also known as Buzz Osborne -- still hopes to do musically that he hasn't done just yet, but he's crossed two items off his bucket list in one stroke: he's made his first full-length solo album and recorded his first acoustic project at the same time. This Machine Kills Artists finds Osborne armed only with his acoustic guitar and his voice (along with some discreet overdubbing) as he pounds through 17 songs that bear a fairly strong melodic resemblance to his traditional style. The buzzy report of Osborne's acoustic lacks the titanic force of his traditional Les Paul axe and Sunn amps, but the tone isn't as dissimilar as one might think (especially since he seems to have tuned down on a few cuts), and the songs conform to Osborne's typical lyrical and musical obsessions (any album with songs titled "Dark Brown Teeth," "Drunken Baby," "How I Became Offensive," and "Useless King of the Punks" would appear to be right in Buzz's wheelhouse).
Since 1987, Seattle odd-grunge/ sludge metal pioneers Melvins have released a mammoth 21 albums, yet weirdly wonderful frontman Buzz ‘King Buzzo’ Osborne has never made a solo record. There was, admittedly, a fourtrack EP in 1992 (featuring Dave Grohl on drums, no less) but it was released under Melvins’ moniker, so doesn’t really count. Besides, this is a much more determined effort.
There’s a club night in London called the Alternative Comedy Memorial Society (or ACMS) which encourages weird, odd and surreal comedians to take risks and chances with material - it has a welcoming audience who only heckle with a set of pre-approved phrases, the best of which is “I appreciate what you’re trying to do here. ” Well, dear King Buzzo (aka The Melvins' Buzz Osborne). .
The title of this solo acoustic debut album from the singer-guitarist of the storied Seattle grunge outliers Melvins — a play on “This Machine Kills Fascists,” the slogan that protest balladeer Woody Guthrie famously painted on his guitar in 1941 — immediately indicates that the enigmatic King Buzzo hasn’t taken pains to extract his tongue from his cheek. There’s no whiff of the near-piety that saturated so many episodes of “MTV Unplugged. ” Instead, Osborne plies his customary snarl, obstreperous lyrics, and bespoke riffs — sometimes lightly altered with effects, butbone-stark otherwise — on crabby yarns like “Rough Democracy,” “Everything’s Easy for You,” “The Blithering Idiot,” and “Useless King of the Punks.
While most of their contemporaries have either crashed and burned or fizzled out, the Melvins remain one of the most prolific and hardworking bands in the rock history. Financial success and fame may elude them (they've always been too bizarre for meathead metal fans and lamestream culture), but Buzz Osborne and Dale Crover have managed to do what so few bands can: get better with age. No nostalgia trip here.
This Machine Kills Artists, the debut solo album by Melvins lynchpin Buzz Osborne, is an acoustic album. The man behind the uncompromising sludge of grunge-anticipating classics such as Houdini has released an album entirely bereft of electric guitars. That will take many listeners a little while to get their heads around. However, although this is an acoustic album, it has little in common with most acoustic guitar-based music.