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splendid > reviews > 11/24/2005
Jello Biafra and The Melvins
Jello Biafra and The Melvins
Sieg Howdy!
Alternative Tentacles


Format Reviewed: CD

Soundclip: "Kali-fornia Uber Allies 21st Century"

Buy me now
2004's Never Breathe What You Can't See teamed punk figurehead Jello with metal sludge kings The Melvins, with impressive results. While the music was definitely heavy, it had a Jello edge -- it was cleverly punky, with nuggets of sardonic humor thrown in for good measure. If you took a large hunting knife to Never, carefully peeled all of the skin from its carcass, turned it inside out and then redressed the album in its own flesh, the result would look something like Sieg Howdy!.

While many of these tunes were recorded during the same session that produced Never, there's a more distinctive Melvins imprint on this batch, especially on the heavier, lengthier tunes. There's still plenty of upbeat punk in the equation, but Buzzo and crew made more of a mark on the music this time around.

It's probably best to start off where God, Mother Nature, Jello and The Melvins intended you to do so: the brutal reworking of Alice Cooper's "Halo of Flies". It's a tad shorter than the original, but The Melvins add an incredibly raw, rough edge, starting with the classic Devil's triad introduction and ending with the band's trademark bulbous, beefy chords. As the galloping metal rhythms are unleashed, Jello slices through the murk with his usual nasal brilliance. His voice is grating, whiny, and a perfect complement to the monstrous riffs echoing from the speakers. The remake is dead on, soaking up Cooper's original menacing vibe while updating the sound for today's festering youth.

Sieg Howdy only gets better from there. The lengthy remix of "The Lighter Side of Global Terrorism" sounds like a crank-addled Chrome playing a lengthy Hawkwind space-rock anthem. Jello tackles racial profiling and airport checkpoints, while the frenzied musical backing gets a makeover with added reverb and plenty of distortion. An extended guitar solo leans on screeching feedback and astral jams, creating quite a racket. If you didn't get the message the first time, maybe you'll remember to check anything "dangerous" on your next trip.

The dumbing-down of punk rock is addressed on "Those Dumb Punk Kids (Will Buy Anything)", along with the unnecessary (and usually embarrassing) reunions of aging punk rock icons. Jello never comes right out and says it, but he's clearly nailing his former DK comrades (along with other painful punk reincarnations like the Danzig-less Misfits) to the cross. The lyrics deliver a vicious verbal thrashing: "We'll sue the guy who wrote the songs / So we can sell them into commercials / Steal the name and hit the road / Trashing all our band stood for / We won't rehearse, sound worse / Dig up some old child star / Who never learns the words." Come on Klaus, Ray, D.H. and Brandon (you silly child star) -- didn't you expect Jello to take a few shots at you when he got a chance?

Other soon-to-be classics include the super rockfest "Lessons in What Not to Become" and the short but bitter "Voted Off the Island". "Lessons" discusses hypocritical parenting and blaming child-rearing failures on music, while "Voted"'s catchy chorus takes a bite out of conformity.

Biafra tackles Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger with an updated (and live) take on "Kali-fornia Uber Alles 21st Century". He includes plenty of clever Arnold references, including sly commentary on "Kindergarten Cops", "Girlie Men" and "The Terminator". Add a hearty dose of The Melvins' extra low-end sound and you've got a bona fide musical massacre that packs all the intensity and ferocity of the original. Bashing corrupt governments always makes for quality entertainment.

Remixes by Al Jourgensen ("Enchanted Thoughtfist"), Dälek ("Dawn of the Locusts") and the Dead Nephews ("Caped Crusader") are as spectacular as the originals. "Enchanted" includes a guest appearance by Rigor Mortis, Ministry and Revolting Cocks member Mike Scaccia on guitar.

The Melvins have never put their name on anything that sucked, and Sieg Howdy! doesn't hurt their streak, while Jello, despite his familiar shtick, has wisely avoided pigeonholing himself or descending into self-parody. All of these guys are considerably older than today's puerile punks, but as Jello and the Melvins remind us here, age doesn't have to mean musical stagnation.



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