After Geffen Records scored an unexpected commercial and financial success with Nirvana’s ‘Nevermind’ album in 1991, other major labels began to scour the Seattle area, convinced that the city and its surrounding towns would result in a similar brand of ‘Teen Spirit’. By 1993, around the time that Seattle Fever had reached its peak, pretty much every band who’d been name checked by Kurt Cobain or other important figures had made the leap from indie cool to bigger things. Even supposed second division acts like Tad found themselves signed to major contracts. Looking back, it could be argued that a lot of these bands didn’t quite have the impact the labels had desired, but these major deals certainly elevated their profiles.
Few bands have been more influential to the alternative scene than (the) Melvins. Since their arrival in the early eighties, the noisemakers from Washington have forged an uncompromising musical path which has inspired punk and doom metal bands alike. They’ve encouraged many to twist the elements of rock music into unfathomable shapes. Their early work laid the formations for what many consider “grunge”. Somehow, in the mid 90s, they even managed to score a recording deal with a major label, which inspired them to become even more obtuse, first releasing a single that had a lyric in a made up language (‘Hooch’) and promote a slightly later release with a track that included a drawling vocal, a sludge metal riff and an atonal jazz solo played on the trombone. Even more bizarrely, that single (‘Bar-X The Rocking M’) even had its video shown on MTV. The Melvins’ career has taken many forms, and it’s rarely been pretty, but it has never, ever been dull.
Anyone who has ever seen the Melvins at any point will tell you they put on an amazing live show. Their sledgehammer sound is arguably at its most effective when delivered at full volume in front of an intense crowd, but the opportunity to watch drummer Dale Crover at work makes for a brilliant experience in itself.
When Redd Kross released their ‘Researching The Blues‘ album in 2012, it gave fans plenty of reasons to celebrate. Not only did that record break a fifteen year recording hiatus, but it was also the band’s best album since 1990’s ‘Third Eye’. In ‘Stay Away From Downtown’, fans were given the ultimate Redd Kross power pop anthem and on material like ‘Dracula’s Daughters’ and ‘Meet Frankenstein’, the band showed they’d lost none of their love for b-movie schlock or high camp. ‘Researching The Blues’ was a fabulous comeback, indeed…and one of the greatest albums of that year.
Something unexpected happened in 2015 when bassist Steven McDonald was invited to join arty sludge legends Melvins. Given that Redd Kross had started out as a trashy punk band and McDonald had moonlighted with OFF! – a brilliant and uncompromising hardcore punk act featuring ex-Black Flag vocalist Keith Morris – perhaps it shouldn’t have been that unexpected, but it’s probably fair to say few people saw that coming. Steve’s place alongside Melvins mainstays Buzz and Dale led to various gloriously mismatched live shows shared between the two bands and by the time Melvins released ‘Pinkus Abortion Technician’ in 2018, McDonald’s influence within the band could very definitely be felt.
It’s Hallowe’en. Across Brixton, various young people are getting ready for spooky festivities. It probably means they’re off to the pub in their best Bride of Frankenstein and Corpse Bride finery before hitting the clubs later, but it seems fairly busy for a Tuesday night. There aren’t any skeletons or pumpkins adorning the Electric Brixton, but a cursory look at the merchandising stand still makes the occasion very clear. A massive poster advertising this show featuring power pop legends Redd Kross and sludgy art rock oddballs the Melvins very much resembles a promotional poster for an eighties slasher flick. As far as gig posters go, it’s incredibly smart, although no more of a spook-show concept should be looked for, especially as the night progresses.