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Entry date: 2-1-2024 – Happy February – Letters to My Friends

Dear Friends,

 

The first month of 2024 is behind us. I’m not sure how to feel about it. It was a wonderful month in many ways and a difficult month in others. They are all kind of like that, aren’t they? If a month was all sunshine and rainbows, would we really like it? I don’t know.

 

A couple things I want to say, though, about January…

 

It was great to get to spend a lot of time with my Granny. That was a real highlight. I love going to see her. She has me give her the lowdown on what everyone is up to if it is just her and I and if not, she gets such a kick out of seeing Rhondi and the kids. I used the word “Seeing” but it’s not really accurate. She doesn’t see much any more at all.

 

Yesterday was an early release day for us at school, so I wrapped up my work as quickly as I could and went over and spent almost two hours with her. It was really nice after not seeing her for 10 days due to being sick. We talked about the Amelia Earhart news, and I updated her on all the other stuff around our house.

 

Another family related highlight in January for me was going to see the Cardinals play with Ryan, Liam, my dad, my brother, and his buddy. I’d really like for us fellas to get together and hang out once a month or so at least. I think it would be good for all of us. I don’t want to exclude the ladies, of course, but it was really fun and felt damn good. I’d love to strengthen our bonds.

 

This month has been very interesting, too, as a dry month. The last ten days have also been smoking free. I don’t think it will come as a surprise, but I do enjoy a puff of the demon weed. I had been kind of chimney in November, December, and the first part of January. Getting sick, though, took away my desire for it.

 

I realize that my anxiety has been off the charts the last few months, but since I let the smoke clear, it has eased up considerably. Something to think about as I move forward with the no drinking thing. There were some tough moments with that, too. I don’t really want to drink, but certain situations have become so entwined with booze.

 

I’m feeling better and better, though, physically so I have no doubts about staying on track at the moment. We’ll see what the future holds. I miss the taste of beer a lot, but I don’t miss the other stuff that came along with it. Right now, though, I am happy as a damn clam.

 

Here’s to a new month and some new challenges.

 

*****

 

I’m building a new page for the record essays. I don’t know what else to call them. Be patient with me. There is so much of them that I need to figure out the best way of doing it. There are two up so far, but I’ not sure I like how they turned out. Check them out and let me know if you are so inclined.

 

I have realized that what started off as 450-550 words about these records has grown considerably. If they are too long, please let me know, too. I don’t know what to say or think about them just yet. I do know that I enjoy writing them and diving into the records.

 

Speaking of…

 

*****

 

Somewhere around the time the Melvins put out Stoner Witch, a few of us went to see them open for Helmet at a place called The Electric Ballroom in Tempe. Prior to the show, we met for dinner on Mill Avenue, which is the main drag in Tempe. For years, Mill Avenue was a place where kids from counter cultures would go hang out and do their thing. Now, it’s just a big mall for people who spend more time counting than countering.

 

We had a lovely dinner, though, at a place called Café Boa. I loved their gnocchi and I had it that night. We headed towards Electric Ballroom and got there in plenty of time to see Melvins wipe the floor with Helmet. I distinctly remember telling Justin and Dave, probably Shane, too, that if I were a member of Helmet, I might need to say that I wasn’t well enough to perform. This was the mid-90s and when the Melvins were on, they were pretty much unbeatable.

 

Stoner Witch, like Daydream Nation by Sonic Youth, was released on my birthday in 1994. Sonic Youth’s masterpiece predates the Melvins’ masterpiece by seven years. Lucky seven, maybe. I got it right around then; it was maybe even a gift. I can’t remember.

 

Either way, Stoner Witch is a fucking banger. It has my favorite stoner rock song and guitar lead, too. “Revolve” might be a perfect song. It certainly has a perfect lead. I’m so glad I was already a fan when this came out because it was a game changer for me.

 

The Melvins had put out Houdini (1993) and Bullhead (1991) and both of those could have gotten a similar review from me. They are absolute scorchers. Heavy, sludgy, and filled with riff after riff of great stoner grunge, but for me, Stoner Witch was just a notch above them both.

 

I have this theory that Buzz Osbourne, guitarist and lead vocalist/lyricist for the band, is ultra-competitive. I asked him about this during one of our interviews and he bristled a bit, so I think I touched on something he didn’t want to admit. The reason I think this is that every time I see Melvins, and they are one of the support bands, they bring their absolute “A” game. As headliners, they have been a bit more inconsistent. It’s not like I have seen them suck, but I have seen a few headlining gigs where they didn’t seem particularly inspired to melt people’s faces.

 

With Stoner Witch, it was 1994 and grunge was wildly popular. Kurt Cobain was dead and part of me thinks that Buzz and Dale Crover, the Melvins amazing drummer (and even better human), along with (then) bassist Mark Deutrom wanted to show all their grunge contemporaries who their daddy was. I could be wrong here, it’s just a theory, but it’s certainly plausible.

Anywho, just toss it on and see what I mean. If you haven’t listened to it for a while, you will be blown away. If you have never taken it for a spin, I certainly hope you like it. As a bass player, there are some killer riffs on the record. “Skweetis” has a great bass tone and a really fantastic roll in the riff to start the record and then it doesn’t let up.

 

Nobody does sludge metal like the Melvins. It was an honor for me to have Hillbilly Devilspeak compared to the sludginess of the Melvins when we got reviewed quite favorably after one of our LA shows at the end of the 90s.

 

“Queen” is a heavy staple of Melvin’s shows still. I love it when they dust that one off. Joe Barresi (engineer) and GGGarth (producer) cranked out one of the best sounding records of the early 90s here. It’s so big and fuzzy. “Queen” kind of epitomizes how three great musicians with proper mixing can make a song that hits hard yet dances on the edge of the senses like a marionette with one clubfoot.

 

“Sweet Willy Rollbar” is the bad ass lead-in to my beloved “Revolve.” As mentioned, it’s a perfect song. So what if the lyrics are pure nonsense. I don’t care. They sound great and I love singing along with them because if you fuck them up, it doesn’t matter at all. I’ll never forget seeing the “Night with the Melvins” show at the Mason Jar around 97 or 98 when Buzz and Deutrom switched instruments for the middle set. I was blown away to see Deutrom rip through the beautiful guitar solo note for note like it was nothing.

 

It may be the solo that launched about 3,000 stoner rock bands into existence.

 

It would have been completely acceptable for Melvins to mail it in for the rest of the record, but they do not. “Revolve” is Mount Everest and Mount McKinley/Denali wrapped into one, but there are still great heights on Stoner Witch. There are deep valleys, too. 

 

“Goose Freight Train” and “Roadbull” are a wonderful change of pace after “Revolve,” but the heaviness is still there. Dale’s percussion work just slays on both of them. It is tight and restrained but still drives everything. Slow and steady begins to win the race with those two.

 

“At the Stake” is another slow and heavy song that keeps your attention tightly wound around Osbourne’s noisy guitar squawk before it explodes around the 3:30 mark to remind you just who you are listening to when you listen to Stoner Witch. Another great guitar solo, as well.

 

It wouldn’t be a Melvins record without a song like “Magic Pig Detective.” If you’ve never heard the band, this one might really confuse the shit out of you. If you know, though, then you know. Melvins being Melvins. After a bit of noise, though, the rock starts up again. Stick in there, pal. It’s a heavy fucking blast of guitar and floor tom work.

 

“Shevil” is another slow burning haunt. It would make perfect music for horror movie about being alone in a huge house with no working electricity and you’re looking for a book of matches you know is there, but you can’t remember which room you left it in. You slowly walk through rooms, feeling around for the walls and doorknobs and chests of drawers where the matches might be but never find them. There is also a killer there somewhere, too.

 

“June Bug” is another one with a killer bass line by Deutrom. It drives the song and allows for Buzz and Dale to just go off. Two minutes of sheer bliss for heavy music fans who like a slightly wistful guitar sound mixed in. I wish they would play this one live more.

 

As Stoner Witch comes to a close with the epic, droning “Lividity,” I am reminded yet again why I have loved this record for almost 30 years now. It’s more than just a banger. It’s Melvins of multiple moods, textures, and talents. The band has always had good bass players. Sometimes you need to revisit them all to see how each one has brought the band to new heights during their tenure. Hats off to you, Mark Deutrom, for helping Osbourne and Crover bring the beautiful noise.

 

Stoner Witch forever.

 

*****  

 

See you tomorrow.





Tried to look around

but nothing mattered again

but bricks touching bricks

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