The fact that the Melvins have now put out no fewer than ten live albums gives you a not-so subtle indication of where this great American band’s real strengths lie. As consistently strong as their massive, 25-year body of studio recordings is, the best way to experience the Melvins is in a live setting, to experience firsthand the staggering thud of drums, the fillings-loosening guitar and bass tones, to be completely overwhelmed by the sound. However, it can be said that the Aberdeen, Washington sludge legends have never sounded stronger live than they do now.
The dust in Seattle has long since settled, but the 'godfathers of grunge' Melvins are still stirring up the sludge with their latest release Sugar Daddy Live. Formed as a trio in 1983, the influential hard rock group has developed into a four-piece in recent years, adding an extra drummer for a percussive impact that matches the famous growl of their guitars. The new live album, drawing in large part from their recent work, notably Nude With Boots and (A) Senile Animal, proves the much-lauded band remains a vital creative unit that has not doddered off to the rock'n'roll retirement home.
The 10th(!) live release from these indefatigable sludge expressionists is easily their strongest, fully capturing the tension, triumph, and tinnitus hazards of their current lineup...and often better than their studio recordings. Since debuting their double-drummer lineup in 2006, the band has gotten frighteningly precise on records like 2010’s The Bride Screamed Murder. Both drummers—young buck Coady Willis and mammoth pounder Dale Crover—are more playful onstage, giving a living, breathing, resolutely human anxiety to their clattery.
On the verge of a residency tour on which they’ll resurrect dozens of classic tracks, playing two nights and two sets in each city, it seems ultimately appropriate that King Buzzo and the rest of the Melvins take some time to release a live disc to let fans outside of that tour know exactly what they’re missing. While it’d be too difficult a task to pick out 13 tracks for a “Best of” for one of hard rock/metal’s biggest and weirdest back catalogs, this one hits some major recent high notes, resulting in a collection worth picking up for understanding where the band is today. Released on Ipecac Recordings (founded by the one and only Mike Patton) and recorded at the Busta-Guts Club in Downey, California, Sugar Daddy digs deep, taking a few tracks dating as far back as 1987’s Gluey Porch Treatment.
Much too often, late career live albums don’t capture the spirit of a band. This is far from the case with the Melvins. Recorded live, presumably while touring somewhere in 2008 (hard to be sure, since, like the Alive at the F*cker Club venue, the “busta-guts club” doesn’t actually exist) Sugar Daddy Live finds the sludge metalists powering through an energetic 13 songs nearly 25 years after their formation, and having a ton of fun while doing so.