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Chicken Switch

Melvins

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Album Review

As outlandish as Melvins records tend to be, Chicken Switch surpasses expectations. As if remixing the grunge pioneers' baritone vocals and chunky guitar isn't a bizarre notion to begin with, the chosen contributors weren't taken from the typical pool of electronic DJs (no Justice or Girl Talk here!). These are the guitar-slinging, experimental/noise variety of remixers, with Matmos, Sonic Youth's Lee Ranaldo, the Boredoms' Yamatsuka Eye, Acid Mothers Temple's Kawabata Makota, and noise icon Merzbow doing the cutting and tweaking. Stranger still is the fact that these artists aren't reworking particular songs, but instead are each using a full album's worth of material (or more) to deconstruct and rework into a single track. Usually the material is warped beyond recognition. It's difficult to tell what album spawned Merzbow's song, since it's rendered indecipherable by a wall of trebly distortion and static. Meanwhile, for "P***k Concrète/Revolution M," onetime Melvin David Scott Stone elongates a bassy Buzzo a cappella into three minutes of whale-like throat singing. Lee Ranaldo's "Eggnog Trilogy" is one of the few tracks that actual feels like a real song with an actual backbeat — although, like the rest of the album and most of the Melvins' back catalog, it's disturbingly choppy and at times frightening. Chicken Switch is a punishing, twisted mess — and in that aspect, it remains true to the warped Melvins aesthetic, and fans will probably eat it up. Even diehards may find it hard to decipher the source material, but the wealth of creativity on board is highly admirable.

Biography

Formed: 1985 in Aberdeen, WA

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

The Melvins were the first post-punk band to revel in the slow, sludgy sounds of Black Sabbath. Their music is oppressively slow and heavy, only without any of the silly mystical lyrics or the indulgent guitar solos; it's just one massive, oozing pile of dark slime. The Melvins' first record was released in 1987; they've released many albums since then, but it wasn't until 1993 that they went to a major label, thanks to their protégé, Kurt Cobain....
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