The Melvins began in 1983 in Montesano, Washington by Buzz Osbourne, Matt Lukin, and Mike Dillard, who all attended the same high school. The band started out by playing a cross of Jimi Hendrix
and Cream covers along with a few hardcore punk songs. Eventually, Mike Dillard left the group, and the band recruited Dale Crover (who would later play drums on a couple of songs on Nirvana
's first album Bleach
) to be on drums. Shortly after that, the group relocated to Dale's parents' house in Aberdeen, and their sound changed considerably with the decision to slow down their music. In 1986, the band released their first EP, Six Songs
, followed by their debut a year later. The band released a series of albums, splits, and EP's over the next few years that wound up being extremely influential to multiple artists and genres of music; bands like Nirvana
(who are personal friends with the band), Eyehategod
, and Boris
(who took their name from a Melvins song) cite them as influences.
Their (major) albums include:
- Gluey Porch Treatments, 1987
- Ozma, 1989
- Bullhead, 1991
- Lysol, 1992
- Houdini, 1993
- Prick, 1994
- Stoner Witch, 1994
- Stag, 1996
- Honky, 1997
- The Maggot, 1999
- The Bootlicker, 1999
- The Crybaby, 2000
- Electroretard, 2001
- Hostile Ambient Takeover, 2002
- Pigs of the Roman Empire, 2004
- (a) Senile Animal, 2006
- Nude With Boots, 2008
- The Bride Screamed Murder, 2010
- Freak Puke, 2012
- Everybody Loves Sausages, 2013
- Tres Cabrones, 2013
- Hold It In, 2014
Tropes that apply to the Melvins:
- A Good Name for a Rock Band: The name came from Osborne's days as a clerk at a Montesano-area Thriftway, where "Melvin" was a particularly hated supervisor who was apparently arrested at some point for stealing Christmas trees. Everyone thought that it was an appropriately ridiculous name for the music they were making, and so it stuck.
- Ascended Fanboy: Subverted. Kurt Cobain (yes, THAT Kurt Cobain) idolized the Melvins growing up, and auditioned for them a couple of times. Although he wasn't an official member, he did manage to land a few gigs being a roadie for them and producing/playing on the Houdini album. According to Buzz, however, he was apparently pretty bad as a producer, so he was quickly canned, much to their mutual dismay.
- Big Rock Ending: Parodied by the instrumental "Pick It n' Flick It", where the whole song is what would normally be considered a big rock ending.
- Also, "The Talking Horse", being three minutes long, featured less than a minute of actual singing and shouting, and that's in the middle of the track. On this scale, the rest of the song definitely counts as one.
- Cover Album: Everybody Loves Sausages. Electroretard doesn't quite count, but it's about half true cover versions, half rearranged versions of their own songs.
- Cover Version: Aside from the aforementioned Everybody Loves Sausages and half of Electroretard, they've covered Hank Williams, KISS, Butthole Surfers, The Germs, Green River...among others. The Melvins themselves have been covered by Mastodon, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Strapping Young Lad, and Pig Destroyer...among others, yet again.
- Digital Piracy Is Evil: The artwork to (A) Senile Animal includes a parody of the normal FBI anti-piracy warning often found on compact discs:
FBI Anti Piracy Warning: Unauthorized Copying is punishable under federal law. So don't do it or the FBI will come and get you and then your life will be ruined and it won't be anyone's fault but your own so don't go trying to blame someone else for your reckless disregard for the legal system. Your sense of entitlement is astonishing and it will inevitably be your downfall if you don't grow up and take responsibility for your actions.
- Epic Rocking: The average length of a Melvins song is roughly two to five minutes (depending on the album), however there are some that exceed this. Bullhead contains the eight minute Boris, Hostile Ambient Takeover has the sixteen minute Anti-Vermin Seed, Lysol brings forth a ten minute song called Hung Bunny (or on some editions of the album, the entire thirty minute album as one track), and the live album Colossus of Destiny is an hour long jam on the song Eye Flys from their first album (which is itself a six and a half minute track).
- Let's just say the Melvins have a lot of these.
- Expo Speak Gag: The demo compilation Mangled Demos From 1983 includes a track titled "Bibulous Confabulation During Rehearsal": it's five minutes of Studio Chatter, and "bibulous confabulation" does in fact mean "drunken chatter".
- Hidden Track: The Maggot, The Bootlicker and The Crybaby were meant to form a loose trilogy, so the former two had a snippet of the first song on the next album in the series hidden after the last song. The Crybaby included a snippet of "amazon", the first track on The Maggot instead, which sort of gives Bookends to these three albums.
- Indecipherable Lyrics: Several songs, Roman Bird Dog being the most notable with at least three different versions of the lyrics floating around out there.
- In Name Only: The cover of "Venus in Furs" by Velvet Underground. It plays part of the first line, and then suddenly turns into 3 and a half minutes of incoherent cacophony.
Shiny shiny, shiny boots of leathAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!
- Idiosyncratic Cover Art: The Maggot, The Bootlicker, and The Crybaby all have very similar cover designs, which again relates to the band considering them a "trilogy:": They all have close-ups of different kinds of flowers as a cover image, the band name and title are rendered in the same fonts and appear in the same place, and above the "v" in "Melvins" is a grey circle with a number (1-3) inside it. And then there's the Kiss-homaging artwork of their 1992 solo EP's.
- In general, the CD editions of many Melvins albums note have the quirk of placing the track-list, UPC, and copyright information on the front of the booklet, and the proper "cover art" on the back of the case, instead of the other way around as is usual: This allows for a slightly wider cover image.
- Lucky Charms Title: The demo collection Mangled Demos From 1983 includes tracks with titles like "☘" and "✈" alongside more conventionally named songs. It's possible the band forgot the names of these long-forgotten songs or just never settled on proper names for them to begin with.
- There's also the song "HOW —++—".
- Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness: Varies wildly. Mostly around a 6-7, with a few songs bordering on 8, but can go as low as a 1 (their cover of the Ballad of Dwight Frye, which is actually less heavy than the original) or as high as a 10 (Goggles).
- Music of Note: The Melvins pioneered sludge metal, along with Black Flag.
- New Sound Album: The Melvins have never stuck to one particular sound, experimenting with sounds that could qualified as stoner metal, drone metal, avant-garde, and just straight-up punk rock.
- Repetitive Audio Glitch: "Pearl Bomb" starts with 30 seconds of what sounds like a skipping CD. Then this loop is joined by clearly non-glitching bass and vocals, and essentially functions as the rhythm track for the song.
- Self-Titled Album: Sort of. Lysol was originally going to just be called Lysol, but as it turns out, the name was a registered trademark, so the album was recalled and black ink or electric tape covered the offending word, and the album was made a self-titled album. Originally, fans could peel off the tape or rub off the ink, however doing this now would only damage the record. A 2014 vinyl reissue re-titled the album as Lice-All, which is of course pronounced exactly the same as the original title.
- Sdrawkcab Name: The band wanted to release Prick on one record label while signed to another one. The latter label had the rights to their name at the time, so the band name was rendered in mirrored writing (i.e. "Snivlem") wherever it appeared on the artwork.
- Shout-Out: "GGIIBBYY" is named after Butthole Surfers vocalist Gibby Haynes.
- "The Brain Center At Whipple's" is named for an episode of The Twilight Zone.
- In 1992, the then-current members of the band (Buzz Osbourne, Dale Crover, and Joe Preston) put out one solo EP each, largely as an elaborate reference to KISS having done the same thing in 1978, but with full albums. Like those Kiss albums, each EP was released under the band's name, with the member whose solo effort it was serving as the title. The artwork to each EP also featured an airbrushed portrait of a Melvins member, done in the same style of the Kiss releases, and the band's logo was changed to one that parodied that of Kiss.
- The title of "Jew Boy Flower Head" is a pun on the Didjits' "Killboy Powerhead"
- "Buck Owens" is named after the country musician, though it's a Non-Appearing Title and the song otherwise has nothing to do with him.
- The song title "Snake Appeal" is most likely a pun on The Stooges' "Shake Appeal".
- Spoken Word in Music: "Divorced", a collaboration with Tool, features a phone conversation between Danny Carey and Maynard James Keenan, which is apparently regarding a mutual friend going out with a woman who Maynard describes as having "a voice like a fuckin' modem, dude!".
- "Hog Leg" begins with some nonsensically quote mined samples from a record of Pat Robertson sermons (e.g. "We can go to church, and you're naked").
- Surprisingly Gentle Song: They've done relatively sedate covers of "Ramblin' Man", "Okie from Muskogee", "You're My Best Friend", and the traditional Canadian folk song "Peggy Gordon". For originals, there's "Black Bock", a lightly psychedelic folk-rock song about mutilating a goat, and "You Can Make Me Wait", a surprising experiment in Jangle Pop with the vocals heavily processed through a vocoder.
- Surreal Music Video: Pretty much every video they've released to some extent. But "The Talking Horse" stands out for having a Mind Screw plot that spoofs multiple Conspiracy Theories, as well as for being an invisible band video where inanimate objects lip sync.
- Stealth Insult: Sort of. Their name comes from a person that Buzz worked with named Melvin that nobody liked; he considered the name to be so stupid, he named his band that as another form of insulting him.
- Take That: "Laughing With Lucifer At Satan's Sideshow" uses Spoken Word in Music to satirize the less-than-cordial relations the band had with their former label.
- The "The" Title Confusion: "Melvins" vs. "The Melvins". The band usually uses the former, but haven't always been consistent about it... And their two albums where they collaborated with Jello Biafra are officially by Jello Biafra & The Melvins, probably because it sounds better. The confusion is referenced in the cover art to A Senile Animal, which renders the band name as "(the) Melvins" and the album as "(a) Senile Animal"... And the cover of Tres Cabrones bills them as "Los Melvins" to go with the Gratuitous Spanish title.
- Wild Hair: The signature look of Buzz Osbourne - he's the one in the top right of the page image. A common joke among the fanbase (especially on YouTube) is that he "looks like Sideshow Bob and laughs like Krusty the Clown".
- Word Salad Lyrics: If it's not a cover, it has these.
- Speaking Simlish: Sometimes goes far enough to be considered this, most prominently in Hooch. It wasn't left unnoticed: the music video of the said song was featured in that very cartoon with two dumb guys, where Butthead tried to figure out the lyrics for Beavis.