5/7/5: Haiku Music Review

Courtesy GBV Inc./Ipecac Recordings

Two stalwarts of the rock scene release new records that prove age is just a number.

Hundreds of years ago, in roughly 400 BT (Before Twitter), the Japanese began penning short poems comprised of 17 syllables in three lines -- five syllables, seven syllables, then five syllables, respectively. Wondering if we could provoke the haiku-master Bashō to turn over in his grave, we've started "5/7/5: Haiku Music Review." These poems make a tweet seem like a Russian novel. They're a regular feature here, so stay tuned.

The Melvins, "Everybody Loves Sausages"
Ipecac Recordings

The Melvins celebrate their dirty 30 as a band this year. Starting in Montesano, Wash., in 1983, guitarist/singer Buzz Osborne and drummer Dale Crover have been the consistent members of the band named after a supervisor at local grocery store where Osborne worked. The name stuck because Osborne and early members believed it was ridiculous, in a good way.

Osborne, also known as "King Buzzo," and his crew are about as predictable as weather in the mountains. They can play Quaalude-slow Sabbath riffs as well as Russian-roulette signature changes that would make any Captain Beefheart or John Zorn fan smile. And King Buzzo does all this rocking a scary Afro that's part Sideshow Bob and part Robert Smith.

Their latest, "Everyone Loves Sausages," is a collection of covers ranging from songs like Queen's "My Best Friend" to Venom's "Warhead" and The Jam's "Art School." There's even a track inspired by industrial music's godparents, Throbbing Gristle --"inspired" because the track isn't a TG song, but the name of Buzzo's favorite record in the TG catalog.

Some songs include guest appearances, too: Jello Biafra, Scott Kelly of Neurosis, Mark Arm of Mudhoney and Clem Burke of Blondie, to name a few. They make the well-rounded stew that is The Melvins even spicier and ridiculous.

In a good way.

Buzzo's collection
Of music.
Heard from inside His scary Afro

Guided by Voices, "English Little League"
Guided by Voices Inc.

Decades ago, in a post-"Mad Men" and pre-disco world, the most popular beer in the world was Schaefer. Their advertising slogan included a touch of brilliance because it indicated diminishing returns were not part of their suds. The beer was sold as " ... the one beer to have when you're having more than one."

But beer was different back then; there were a lot of regional brands, much like the plethora of indie rock all over the U.S. in the '80s and '90s. And one of the most refreshing and interesting of the bunch was Dayton, Ohio's, Guided by Voices.

Led by a grade-school teacher, Robert Pollard, and a crew of his drinking buddies, the band created the most effortless, melodic Brit pop by way of the Midwest ever. Most music geeks could be trapped with their four records from the mid-'90s -- "Vampire on Titus" (1993), "Bee Thousand" (1994), "Alien Lanes" (1995), "Under the Bushes Under the Stars" (1996) -- and be satiated, nay, intoxicated.

But excessive touring took its toll on GBV's other primary songwriter, Tobin Sprout, and he left the band. This began the demise of their "classic lineup" and Pollard cycled in a crew of new musicians while he continued his prolific output -- he has more than 1,500 songs registered on BMI. GBV has about 20 full-length albums, a handful of box sets and enough EPs to keep collectors on eBay a few nights a week. Pollard himself has almost 20 solo albums.

His output is rivaled by only poet Charles Bukowski. The one big difference is Pollard probably drinks more, often speaks in an English accent and is more pleasant than Buk ever was.

The new record, "English Little League," includes the classic lineup, which got back together in June 2010 to play Matador's 21st anniversary. They didn't waste any time in getting into the studio and the band released three full-length albums last year. As with many classic GBV releases, the songs by Tobin Sprout stand out. Sprout's "The Sudden Death of Epstein's Ways," as well as "(Island) She Talks In Rainbows," are two of the record's best tracks -- a classic GBV album.

A record to put on when you want to hear more than one.

While reading this poem
Bob Pollard wrote two ditties
And they are tip top.

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