Review: Melvins ‘Five Legged Dog’The Sleeping Shaman

Chances are if you’re reading this review on The Sleeping Shaman, Melvins need no introduction. I could make a pretty compelling argument that the Pacific Northwest legends are almost singlehandedly responsible for the creation of sludge, and grunge, and have had a massive influence on what went on to become stoner rock. Going all the way back to their formation in 1983, when a young Buzz Osborne on guitar and vox, Dale Crover on drums, and Matt Lukin (also of Mudhoney) on bass, decided to take their love of Black Flag’s immortal My War, specifically side two, and mixing it with their weird brand of Northwest rock, slowing it WAY down, while cranking the riffs WAY up.

Everybody from Jimmy Bower of EyeHateGodto Scott Kelly and Steve Von Till of Neurosis has cited Melvins as a massive influence, to say nothing of their impact on the late 80s/early 90s Seattle grunge scene. Soundgarden obviously took Melvins slow, heavy riffs to heart, and Kurt Cobain roadied for them. Their influence over the last thirty years on all forms of heavy music cannot be overstated. Everyone has their favorite Melvins era, and the brand new, massive, quarantine-recorded, acoustic, 36-track, Five Legged Dog has something for everyone, spanning select cuts form The grunge overlord’s massive discography, including a cut from Dale Crover’s solo LP, and some unreleased covers

Conceived during the global Covid-19 pandemic, Buzz Osborne wanted to reinterpret some of the band’s songs acoustically, and the idea in itself is intriguing. This is one of the more intriguing releases of the last few plague-filled years. What would Melvins sound like acoustically? Could it work? Really? Well, Five Legged Dog most certainly answers those questions emphatically. It’s long, it’s weird, its’ Melvins, and it’s fantastic. Melvins sound almost as powerful acoustically as they do amplified. Dale Crover’s snare thwack is as prominent as ever, and Buzz attacks acoustically with authority when needed, pulling back and showing restraint when the song calls for it. The track selection is eclectic as well. Both Boris and Anaconda off Bullhead were slightly eyebrow-raising upon first spin, but holy shit, do they sound great like this. Up The Dumper off The Bootlicker now sounds like some acoustic, hippie era jam.

Other highlights for me among the 36-tracks include the ‘hits’ off Houdini, arguably Melvins best known record, Hooch, Honey Bucket and Night Goat put a wide smile on my face, hearing them in these stripped-down versions. Oven off Ozma loses none of its aggression and weirdness acoustically, while Queen and Revolve sound just as impactful here as in their original incarnations on Stoner Witch.

Five Legged Dog is yet another awesome addition to Melvins vast discography, but this one stands out, obviously, due to the acoustic renditions of classic cuts…

Later-day Melvins are represented well too. Cuts from the records that featured Big BusinessJarred Warren and Coady Willis are some of my personal favorites, so songs like Suicide In Progress, and Billy Fish off Nude With Boots and Civilized Worm off (A) Senile Animal are real treats for the earholes. Opener Edgar the Elephant is from 2017’s A Walk With Love And Death, and closer Don’t Forget To Breathe is from 2018’s Pinkus Abortion Technician.

Two real highlights are the covers of Alice Cooper’s Halo Of Flies, and The Rolling Stones Sway. The latter in particular is a real standout. Not only is it one of The Stones best songs, but Melvins lovingly, acoustic rendition bares multiple listens. It’s that good.

Five Legged Dog is yet another awesome addition to Melvins vast discography, but this one stands out, obviously, due to the acoustic renditions of classic cuts, but also as an eclectic section of the bands bottomless catalog. It’s a real treat of a record, and despite the length, and the sheer number of tracks, Five Legged Dog never grows tiresome. If anything, the volume of tracks is a bonus. The cover of Sway alone is worth the price of admission. I am biased, as I’ve been listening to Melvins band since 1990, but this is a fantastic release, by an iconic band and most certainly one of the best of the pandemic/quarantine related projects that have been released in the last year and a half.

Label: Ipecac Recordings
Band Links: Official | Facebook | Bandcamp | Twitter | Instagram

Scribed by: Martin Williams

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