“I have no interest in sounding like a crappy version of James Taylor or a half assed version of Woody Guthrie. Which is what happens when almost every rock and roller straps on an acoustic guitar. No thanks…This Machine Kills Artists is a different kind of animal.” King Buzzo.
The impressively affro-ed Roger ‘Buzz’ Osborne, aka King Buzzo, has spent over 30 years channeling his noisier tendencies via the primordial sludge of noise-rock behemoth The Melvins. Wildly eclectic and experimental at the heavier end of the musical spectrum, the band that a young Kurt Cobain once roadied for were initially pegged as merely brontosaurus-riffing grunge protagonists. And while their influence on the 90’s Seattle scene cannot be underestimated, Osborne and his rag-tag bunch have diversified far and wide over the preceding years, touching upon everything from straight up Sabbath worship and Kiss homages to fuzzed out sound experiments, performing with two drummers and…ahem…noise rock nirvana.
Osborne carries the blueprint of his ‘day job’ well and truly into this solo sojourn. And while Woodie Guthrie’s machine killed fascists, King Buzzo’s machine is truly far from storytelling troubadour with unplugged guitar fare. The album is however 100% bona fide acoustic – no amplifiers, direct boxes or electric instrumentation to be found anywhere in this artist slaying machine.
In many ways the record is actually not too dissimilar to Buzz’s main act, which makes sense when one learns that many Melvins tracks are actually written on acoutic guitar and simply transferred to electric! The acerbic, sarcastic, gonzoid vibe which characterises much of The Melvin’s best work is still in evidence here, it’s simply delivered in a vastly stripped back format. Song titles such as Blithering Idiot, How I Became Offensive and The Vulgar Joke also give the game away somewhat. Think Melvins performing their more ‘song’ based fare unplugged and you might be getting close…
Individual album highlights are hard to pinpoint, the album is an exercise in uniform tone and mood that sits together impressively over the course of it’s 17 tracks. The acoustic strumming employed is dark, insistent and heavy, locking into ominous, mantra-channeling, tough as nails grooves, sounding sometimes not too dissimilar to a bummed out version of one man New York wrecking machine Ed Hammell, aka Hamell On Trial. Weird yet melodically catchy hooks regularly bubble to the surface, especially evident in opening number Dark Brown Teeth, and the wonderfully named Useless King of the Punks. And the whole shebang is held together by the presence of Osborne’s unmistakable vocals, howling, cajoling, a darkly paranoid buzz and croon.
This Machine is a minor key, off kilter blues-folk burner with a heart of gunk…get on board!
For those wishing to catch the man himself in the flesh performing King Buzzo tracks in stripped back mode, be sure to get yourself along to Black Bear Lodge in Fortitude Valley on Sunday, 24 August. As an added bonus, legendary Hard Ons guitarist Peter ‘Blackie’ Black will also be playing a rare solo show as support! You know where to be then…