THE MELVINS SULLY THE NAME OF THE REMIX WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM THEIR FRIENDS ON CHICKEN SWITCH
The notion of a remix album is a strange one. First of all, what purpose do they serve – to provide intriguing reinterpretations of their catalog, or to throw a bone to fans hungry for a new album? Secondly, are remixes to be judged on their own merits as songs, or do they need to be permanently attached to their point of origin? Third of all, what in the fuck IS a remix, exactly? In the hip-hop community, it’s the same backing track with a slew of different rappers of wildly varying quality contributing new verses along with the original artist. In the pop world, it’s the original song with a throbbing nightclub beat thrown underneath. In the metal world, it’s a weird prospect: it’s either a collection of ambient, noise, or ambient/noise pieces built upon the tiniest shred of the source material, or a rearranging of the original tracks into a violent, messy reimagining (For the latter, see Justin Broadrick’s take on Isis’ “Hym” for how it can be done well, and his take on Pantera’s “Fucking Hostile” to see how it can be done horribly). Needless to say, metal remix albums tend to be geared toward metalheads with noise sympathies or strictly for fans only, if not both. The Melvins’ new remix collection, Chicken Switch, appears to fall into both, but actually falls pretty hard into the latter. Those in search of a worthwhile remix album should probably ignore this one.
Now, supposedly the album is made up of remixes of entire Mevins albums in lieu of individual songs. However, the colossal mess that each winds up being makes this hard to tell. All the tracks contain nothing more than shreds of their origin, and while this could be a promising prospect for heralded noisemaster Merzbow or Sonic Youth’s Lee Ronaldo (both of whom provide remixes), the grating, confusing, and ultimately bland and shapeless results massively underwhelm when they should be overwhelming. From uninteresting ambience (Sunroof’s “The Silky Apple Butter of Youth”) to drone exercises (David Scott Stone’s “Pink Concrete/Revolution M”) to chopped up bits of Melvins rearranged sloppily (Ronaldo’s “Eggnog Trilogy” and V/VM’s brilliantly titled/poorly executed “She Chokes Her Dying Breath and Does It Right in My Face”), anything remotely interesting is lost in a sea of C-grade noise. There’s even an Electroclash remix of a Melvins album, if that’s your thing (and if it is, you’re what’s wrong with America). But all these weird, mismatched parts make up a very unappealing whole. And although noise is unappealing by design, Chicken Switch annoys more than it pushes boundaries.
At times, the album feels more like an aural inside joke. But more often than not, one wonders, “Why?” Obviously, this is strictly a “fans only” affair, but even then, I can’t imagine many fans of the band’s proto-sludge heaviness and punk rock sneer sitting in a room shitting themselves with excitement, track after track. While being grating or odd has always been part of the band’s MO, it’s taken past its logical extreme here. While aiming for daring, the majority of Chicken Switch is pretentious, unlistenable wanking. Do us all a favor and make a proper new album, gentlemen.
(1 out of 5 horns)