This is one of the greatest albums I have ever heard. It is the very best Melvins recording, with its ultra-compact songs and dense, totally amusical chord progressions; of all the albums on my iPod, it is the only one that tops fifty plays after less than two years in rotation. And that doesn’t even count the times I played the CD. Justin Vellucci at the Punk Planet (and now the Swordfish blog) has the right idea about this album, though he doesn’t seem to go as far in his estimation of it — it’s good, he says, maybe great, but not quite incredible. And THAT is what people get wrong about it.
I will admit that after fifty-odd listens, there’s little to nothing to discover left in Gluey Porch Treatments. I know pretty much everything there is to know about it — the little “Steve Newman!” shout at the end of “Steve Instant Newman,” the missing beat in the transition in “Heater Moves and Eyes,” the extra beat at the end of the intro from “Eye Flys,” and exactly when I should remove my headphones at the end of “Over from Under the Excrement” to avoid being deafened by the obnoxious whine which caps the album. I know that Buzz Osborne refuses to observe the rule about replacing the cornered “y’s” in words with “i’s” and “ie’s”, resulting in titles like “Eye Flys” and “Heavyness of the Load”. But I still can’t air-drum properly to “Echo Head” — which says something about how badass Gluey Porch Treatments is in its difficulty.
It is a flawed album, certainly — I don’t really like the washy echoey flatness of the guitars, and the bass could be pushed up in the mix, and the drums could be stripped of reverb so that they kick even more ass. The vocals are about the only thing mixed right throughout (especially in the last passage from “Influence of Atmosphere”). And yet even lousy production can’t kill an album like Gluey Porch Treatments because the music underneath is so awe-inspiring. Few other sounds could have survived the shafting that the mix wreaks on the Melvins’ first album — Earth might have, and their early work was indeed recorded in low fidelity; likewise with Flipper or Black Flag. But there is something brilliant about a group which can produce a number of albums on a chronically low budget, and still make it obvious that their best work is the one with the worst engineering. I congratulate the Melvins on peaking like this, even if it was too early in their career; I hope they continue to make music, though I’m not a big fan of what they’ve done lately. Meanwhile I will enjoy some Gluey Porch Treatments.