An odd pairing? Not at all! Stephen Lewin travels to Leeds for a formidable double header.
Those who recall the Redd Kross of the 1990s may be surprised to see them on tour in tandem with The Melvins.
By the turn of the century, Redd Kross had spent the previous decade fashioning albums of polished, power-pop like some sort of VH1 Cheap Trick.
The Melvins, on the other hand, have been resolutely hammering their way through a doomy metal bedrock for 34 years. If, however, one digs just a little deeper, tonight’s musical pairing at Leeds’ Brudenell Club makes a little more sense.
Following the Redd Kross family tree back to the early 80s one can see all sorts of offshoots in the direction of bands like Circle Jerks and Black Flag, acts whose visceral hardcore had a considerable impact on the development of The Melvins’ sound.
Present day, the Redd Kross lineage runs smack into that of The Melvins, with Kross founder member Steve McDonald joining Buzz and the boys on their newest outing A Walk With Love And Death and Melvins sticksmith Dale Crover on percussion duties for the McDonald brothers.
Redd Kross’ most recent opus 2012’s Researching The Blues was, on some level, a return to the junk shop glam and garage of their pre- Paisley Underground days and tonight’s set is delivered very much in keeping with this style.
Having disposed of some of the more grating aspects of their 90s incarnation, tonight’s Redd Kross are a musically leaner proposition.There are fewer guitar solos, less amped-up 60s pastiche, a lot more pop and a little less pomp. Having said that, the McDonald’s still find time to get in some ‘rawk an rowlisms’; Steve’s continuous need to high kick an invisible man just above the knee (I’m guessing he’s aiming higher), Jeff’s decision to drape a silver veil over his head and perform half a song like some sort of metallic spook, as well as countless other acts of posturing.
But it is great to hear how, stripped to their raw essence, songs like Jimmy’s Fantasy and Annie’s Gone reveal themselves to be live gems. There are lesser known classics thrown in too as, towards the end of the set, Redd Kross dip into their 1984 EP Teen Babes From Monsanto. Just before the band bows out, the scuzzy Deuce and I’ll Blow You A Kiss In The Wind are joyously delivered to an audience of appreciative fans and new converts. The latter, a track culled from an episode of 60’s US comedy Bewitched, is introduced by Jeff. With a wry smile and a sly nod to Stevie Nicks he tells us “This is a song about a witch”. Well, of course it is.
The Brudenell Social Club rightly deserves its reputation as one of the best venues in the UK. It’s intimate and yet ample crescent shape ensures everyone can clearly see The Melvins loom into view.
Crover and Steve McDonald return to the stage for their second set of the evening, this time joined by the unmistakable shape of Buzz Osborne. Clad in a high collared gold and black tunic, the Melvins’ singer and guitarist resembles an extra from a Tim Burton remake of Plan 9 From Outer Space.
Low-end monoliths are soon being hewn from his matching gold guitar and fissured mid-air by Crover’s jagged cymbal stabs. Baffling rhythms stifle any swell of movement by the fledgling moshers down at the front. This is music to trudge to, lower than the sexual organs of some sort of deep ocean bottom-feeder and equally as strange and luminescent once brought to the surface.
King Buzzo’s voice, part bizarro-Hetfield, part Bobcat Goldthwaite yelp, is still as distinguishing as his hair, a sweaty, grey, roman candle spiralling out of his scalp. The audience is treated to recent beasts such as Sober-delic and Edgar The Elephant wedged against older material like Anaconda, Queen or The Bit.
The Melvins even manage to prise in a triplet of covers; Sacrifice, originally by ‘frisco noiseniks Flipper, Bowie’s Saviour Machine and a stop-start rendition of the fab four’s I Want To Hold Your Hand. Those who came here expecting to hear a set filled with choice tracks from the band’s most well-known long-player Houdini, however, will have been disappointed.
In a typically obtuse gesture The Melvins have chosen to steer clear of this Cobain-produced classic. Despite this there is no feeling that the Brudenell audience has been in any way short-changed. As Buzz, Dale and Steve send us on our way with the sludgefeast that is Roman Bird Dog, we leave deafened but satisfied.
Together with the amuse bouche of Redd Kross, The Melvins complete an appetising evening of noise at the Brudenell not soon to be forgotten.
Image from The Melvin’s Facebook page.