20 October 2008

Hooch

There was a competition to win a Melvins album on vinyl recently. I entered. You had to tell the people which was your fave Melvins song and why. It was so Smash Hits, I couldn't resist! So here it is. It's pretty crap, but it's earnest enough:

My favourite Melvins song is one called 'Hooch', which might be a popular choice on account of it was their big single. If that's not an oxymoron. I first heard it on an episode of Beavis and Butthead, back when I was younger and slimmer than I am now. It was horrible, and that was precisely why I loved it. I seem to recall the video was a man's head with crazy hair bellowing out words I couldn't make out at all. But he was aggressive, and the music was jerky, with almost nothing in the way of a discernable flow; perfect for a self-awarely angsty teen.

It would be a couple of years before I actually got round to buying the album it's on, Houdini. I got that one partly because its non-Cobain co-producer, Billy Anderson, produced my favourite album ever: Through Silver in Blood, by Neurosis. And partly because I needed to hear 'Hooch' again. That was the one song whose lyrics were printed on the booklet, and I finally learned why I had not been able to understand them: there were none! At least none that one would find in the Oxford English Dictionary. The mighty Buzz Osborne must have thought 'hey, you know when it sometimes doesn't sound like a singer is actually singing words, and you just have to make up noises that sound like words? Let's do that!'. And so he did.

Years before Sigur Ros and their Hopelandic language, here was a man who - on the opening track and single from his major label debut - opted to make up noises that merely sounded like words, so no radio listeners would confidently be able to sing along with it. It turns out there is a fantastic flow to the rhythm, specifically because it is so jerky: the whole song is a slow-mo drum fill! The riffs are incredibly solid, and I love it more every time I hear it. Especially when I heard the Fantômas-Melvins Big Band play it at double speed recently. It's so awkward that it's essentially an anti-anthem. And *that* was their big single on Atlantic Records. Pure genius.


Needless to say, I didn't win.

Bonus 'thing', if you can call it a bonus: Sum 41 playing 'Hooch'. Sadly not the real 'Hooch'.

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