Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Review of King Buzzo's This Machine Kills Artists

Apparently not content with just revamping the Melvins every year, guitarist/vocalist Buzz "King Buzzo" Osborne has finally gotten around to releasing the first solo album of his thirty-year career. Being the main writer for the gods of sludge metal weirdness, he has put out an entirely acoustic release as his first step. It's a predictably odd result but also proves to be an enjoyable venture.

On a superficial level, This Machine Kills Artists is about as far removed as you can get from the Melvins. The acoustic guitar is the sole instrument that accompanies Buzzo's most melodic vocals to date and the short song lengths mean there isn't too much for any weird shit to happen. But looking deeper, one will notice that the lyrics are still Buzzo's indecipherable nonsense and the guitar playing is driven by the same start-stop rhythms that define his main band. In fact, the barrage of shorter songs actually reminds me of the Melvins' early punk-influenced material, albeit done in a folk fashion.

This method does result in a rather unique folk experience it does falter by having a few too many songs and for missing the genre's number one rule: the importance of lyrical content. Being a technically minimal genre, folk tends to live or die by an artist's lyrics and the mood that is created by the music and words working together. In contrast, Buzzo has never been one for lyrics, resulting in an album where everything runs together and the mood is undetermined. We don't need to hear him sing about lost women or whatever but it'd be great to get some insights that we wouldn't otherwise.

Fortunately, the music is pretty laid back and his signature riffing style translates surprisingly well to the acoustic style. "Dark Brown Teeth" features some especially intricate strumming while the slower riffs on "New River" and "The Vulgar Joke" are about as heavy as the format can get. It also helps that the titles still manage to be pretty amusing, leading one to wonder what stories are behind such monikers as "Drunken Baby" or "How I Became Offensive."

King Buzzo's folk album is a good example of the man's refusal to play by the rules, even when there's a reason for those rules being there. His riffing is welcome in any format and the approach is unique compared to most of the folk I've heard, but the songs' tendency to sound alike may be a turn-off for some. It'd be interesting to see his main band try this out or if he were able to work with someone who has more crossover experience. You know, an acoustic team-up with Scott Kelly or Wino could be pretty awesome...

"Dark Brown Teeth"
"Rough Democracy"
"Vaulting Over A Microphone"
"New River'
"The Vulgar Joke"

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