Buzz Osborne ‘This Machine Kills Artists’ Review: Melvins’ leader unplugged solo album packs plenty of high voltage.
When Melvin’s leader Buzz Osborne announced he was making an all acoustic album, he nipped any misconceptions that he was going folksy in the bud: “I have no interest in sounding like a crappy version of James Taylor or a half-assed version of Woody Guthrie.” He even coined the term ‘Molk‘ to declare his intentions for a heavier acoustic approach.
And he holds true to his word. His new solo album ‘This Machine Kills Artist’ (out June 3rd via Ipecac Recordings) is a unique and unusual acoustic album. Opener ‘Dark Brown Teeth’ sets the template; melodic yet driving, with traces of psychedelia.
Osborne isn’t afraid to bash his acoustic with the same intensity as an electric guitar; ‘Rough Democracy’ has a strong percussive element, buzzing strings augment his Gregorian chant-style delivery in a hypnotic riff. But he also allows for airy arpeggios to close out the track, taking full advantage of the clarity acoustic strings provide.
But while much of the material on ‘This Machine Kills Artists’ offers Melvins-worthy riffing, the tracks are shorter in length than their extended rock epics. The album features 17 tracks but never feels overstuffed; economical arrangements designed for maximum impact. This flies in the face of many acoustic albums which often feel indulgent and overly repetitive.
Osborne ‘s vocals are allowed to soar over the tracks, given more focus than ever before. But lyrically he remains mysterious and open to interpretation. The dirge-like ‘Drunken Baby’ feels like a meditation on his rock’n’roll outsider status; “I can’t say thank you to all my friends, I don’t complain about beginnings and ends.”
This extends to the rollicking shuffle of ‘Useless King Of The Punks’; “the odds are awful…I got my honor, it’s a hideous compromise.”
Osborne’s dense guitar work helps his one-man band approach. Even without a seismic rhythm there’s no sense of sparseness in his arrangements. While the album may lack the syrupy-thick distortion his fans soak up like a sponge, it still packs a wallop, but with unique ethereal textures to compliment the bombast.
He also creates unique textures, such as pulsing harmonics on ‘How I Became Offensive’ and the odd swirling guitar figures that close out final track ‘The Hesitation Twist.’
‘This Machine Kills Artists’ continues Osborne’s approach of redefining and subverting whatever musical genre he deems fit. This artists feels vibrant and unshackled, machines be damned.
Want to buy ‘This Machine Kills Artists’? You can pre-order via Amazon or iTunes below:
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