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Slow and low, the Melvins make rock heavy enough to stop time

On the face of it, the Melvins are just the ballsiest band ever. In the midst of the mid-'80s thrash heyday, they abandoned their one-two-one-two hardcore roots and subverted everything by becoming the slowest, heaviest band in the world. Crushingly so. Mind-scrapingly, perversely so. (Celebrity endorsement: Kurt Cobain called them his favorite band.)

But have they got a more sinister agenda than just slowing music down to a kind of sonic absolute zero? A friend of mine likes to relate his story this way: "Back in dickety-deuce, my little sister had a job outfitting canoe trips in northern Minnesota. I consented to a visit, albeit with no small measure of trepidation about crossing the arid wastes of North Dakota.

Release the afro! The Melvins pay Missoula a visit on Thursday.

"To make the Peace Garden State leg of my trip as intentionally masochistic as possible, I made a very special Melvins tape: one song—the 12-minute-plus b-side of the band's 1991 Eggnog 10-inch—recorded six times back to back on a 90-minute cassette. For the next umpteen hours, there would be nothing but me, my mom's Subaru, and 'Charmicarmi-cat.'"

"I awoke at dawn in a city park where I'd been camping just this side of the state line. I cued the tape and crossed the border into the blood-red sunrise of insanity just as the first grinding, leaden strains of 'Charmicarmicat' wheezed forth from the tape-deck."

That friend was me, of course. The trip across North Dakota just about broke our minds in half. One of us emerged; the other is doomed to relive that day in perpetuity, driving through endless fields of sunflowers towards an asymptotal, ultimately unobtainable ultima Thule: the crushing terminus of the Melvins' finest hour.

Temporal anomalies and permanent day-trips to parallel realities are just two of the little perquisites to puttering around with time machines, which is what I contend the Subaru became that day. The laws of physics don't prohibit time travel, but physicists contend that prospective fourth-dimensioneers must essentially harness the power of the black hole to accomplish it. A little trickier than just running out and buying batteries.

I posit that the Melvins are the closest thing Earth has to a black hole: an insurmountable gravitational field of a band that doesn't so much knock the knick-knacks off your coffee table as suck them into the speakers and dismantle them atom by atom. At least, it used to be like that—before the Men In Black flashed the neurolizer at them prior to 1994's Stoner Witch LP and turned them into an unpredictably brilliant rock band dishing out white noise and majestic wads of down-tuned arena metal that delves into realms of weirdness none of their contemporaries can touch.

The Melvins—guitarist King Buzzo, drummer Dale Crover and bassist Kevin Rutmanis—are currently touring behind The Maggot, the first installment in a three-part concept album that will ultimately encompass pretty much everything between Alpha Centauri and Middle Earth.

As I gaze upon King Buzzo's resplendent black afro, I am still driving across North Dakota forever.

The Melvins play with Enemymine at the Cowboy Bar on July 1 at 9 p.m. Tickets $10 advance, $12 at the door.

Shut up and listen! Joan Jett is the original rock-lovin' rebel girl


As a post-modern, pre-millennial woman of the '90s, I have a healthy appreciation for the ass-kicking, shut-up and rock attitude Joan Jett seems to embody. And though I distinctly remember whaling on my tennis racket to "I Love Rock 'n' Roll" as a child, I kind of missed the riot grrl thing a few years ago, when Jett and Bikini Kill collaborated on the generally revered "Rebel Girl" single and, as a result, Jett rekindled her relationship with old fans.

However, at age 38, Jett has subconsciously thrust up her middle finger at the survival tactics used by other long-standing women in the business—namely Madonna and Cher—by refusing to trade in her guitar-based style for the aurally air-brushed electronic sounds other artists are happily cashing in on. And that, in my opinion, is reason enough to laud her.

Jett brings the Blackhearts, her longtime backup band, to Chalet Bearmouth this Saturday for what is expected to be an all-day beer-fueled blowout the likes of which we in Montana so dearly love.

Get on board with Jett this Saturday at Bearmouth.

"It's the first time I've played in that area, and I think it's going to be a good crowd," she growls when we speak over the phone. "I'm looking forward to the scenery."

Hopefully, her descent into the Rocky Mountain West will be slightly less harrowing than the trip she took last month to Bosnia, where she entertained peacekeeping soldiers with a rare acoustic set.

"I've been playing for the troops since the early '80s," she explains. "I've been all over the world, from Germany to Korea—it's just something I like to do."

While there, she says her band traveled by military means, including a Blackhawk helicopter with mounted artillery.

"It's as close to war you can get as a civilian without being attacked. When we flew back after the gig, something had happened. They had reported some sniper fire, and they had the machine guns out. It was really interesting, and it gave perspective to what they go through."

These are interesting comments, especially coming from a woman perceived as fairly anti-establishment, a rocker who cites the semi-political punk rock stalwarts Fugazi and Minor Threat as some of her favorite bands.

Her press materials list her as an inspiration to "Lilith Fair artists," and when I point out that the quasi-feminist "Hear Me Roar in My J.Crew Baby-Tee!" music festival, where corporations like Evian and Borders hungrily vie for the Lifetime demographic's disposable income, seems like the Anti-Joan Jett, she refuses to take the bait.

"I'm honored to inspire anybody regardless of who they are," she says. "The music is different than what I do, and I think anytime there's a girl with a guitar, they try to call it rock because it's exciting."

After a bit more needling, she concedes, "You shouldn't have to go around and shout about it, you should be it. But not enough women have that confidence."

Watching her swagger on the Bearmouth stage ought to be the perfect first step.

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