The Melvins and drums

I had the good fortune of catching The Melvins live last time they played Boston. During this set, they stuck to rock oriented material, and didn’t really show their more experimental side. Although I’ve been listening to their material for years, it didn’t dawn on me until that show how essential Dale Crover’s, and more recently Coady Willis’ drumming is to The Melvins songs.

The Melvins take a few page from The Who play-book, at least in their dynamics. Buzz largely sticks to rhythmic parts that accentuate chord changes. He doesn’t really do the whole straight eighth notes power chord thing too often, instead he builds catchy riffs that dance around a bit until they return home to pound you in the face at specific chord changes. Buzz solos pretty rarely, but when he does he rips. He always aids the mood of the songs with his guitar solos rather than using the solo as a venue to show off for the sake of showing off. Jared the bass player follows Buzzes lead hitting the root notes fairly often, but mixes it up with flourishes chords. He basically sticks to what a good rock bassist should do, keep the rhythm but, throw some cool fills and leads in their as well.

The largest amount of variation, solos, fills, sound effects, what one would consider the lead parts come from Dale and Coady. The drums pushed each song, they didn’t provide a subtle back beat, they didn’t lay back. The drums kicked each song in the ass driving the mood by simultaneously working with the song, and sometimes threatening to tear it apart.

The beautiful thing is that the tension created by the drummers during certain songs is completely intentional. Both Dale and Coady are exceptional drummers, and know exactly what they’re going for. They know when to play the same beat, and they know when to go ape-shit. As if playing their often taxing and complicated parts for each song perfectly wasn’t enough, in between each tune Dale and Coady would engage in mini drum offs and pieces which would give Buzz and Jared time to tune. These drums excursions always segwayed perfectly into the next song.

Dale and Coady represent the best kind of drummers. They frequently deviate from basic rhythms, but they do so in a way which is tasteful. Their drum solos aren’t 10 minute long epics, they’re short sweet, and show off their abilities to compose cool rhythms and miniature pieces, rather than showing how many notes they can hit in a second.

As they have in the past the Melvins have brought together an amazing group of musicians, who are tasteful, and enthusiastic to break new ground. While there probably isn’t an era of the band without something valuable to offer, this latest line-up could possibly be the best they’ve had yet. An amazing feat for a band who already have so many artistic accomplishments under their belt.