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FANTOMAS/MELVINS - Big Band Live   Print  E-mail 
Written by Mark Reed  
Monday, 25 October 2004

New Years Eve in San Francisco where two of US hardcores’ most stubborn bastard souls battle it out on one stage. At the same time. Sounds odd. Sounds weird. Oh it does. Sound good? Oh my God yeah. This is what God made your ears for.

For one night only, US legends *The Melvins, teamed up with kindred spirits Fantomas to perform in a big band style. The roll call of bands these members have been in is enough to astound and amaze. And the music they made may appall those who think metal extends as far as the impotent Alien Ant Farm and their ilk. Slayer. Nirvana. Faith No More. Mr. Bungle. Tomahawk. And it sounds like all of these bands playing at once, and more.

With seven people on stage, two bands beat as one, tackling material from both bands repertoire, as well as unveiling new material - well, you can’t call them songs - and bizarre movie theme covers. Initially it seems to offer far far more in the way of new material than it actually does though there are at least two Melvins compositions here, several from the premier Fantomas album (now retitled from 'Page 1', 'Page 2' etc to things like 'Ripping Chicken Meat', 'Musthing With The Phunts', etc..), and a couple from the second Fantomas album - the mighty 'Directors Cut'.

The albums starts as it means to go on with a defiant 'Good Morning Slaves' - a roar and a scream as two bands battle it out on one stage for supremacy and control. Or is it two separate, similar entities colliding in a force that is more than the sum of parts? I have no idea. But it's loud. It roars and screams. And it doesn’t have anything resembling discernable vocals, a chorus, or riffs.

A quick glance at the titles on this release should indicate exactly what type of record this is. 'White Men Are The Vermin of The Earth' is a one minute feedback solo channelled through an FX box: words cannot do stuff like this justice. Then again, if words were enough, we wouldn't need music like this. Random bursts of drums, gutteral riffing and delighted, juvenile screaming top it off. You can almost imagine vocalist Mike Patton gurgling to himself and thinking ’look what I can do...’ before unleashing a cacophony that sound like someone giving birth in Hell.

It’s a brave, unusual record. I’m not sure how much I love it - but love it I do. And if you hear it, you may very well do too. It’s no secret that I rate Fantomas 'The Directors Cut' as one of the most inspired albums of all time. And this isn’t far removed from it - a bastard offspring of leftfield imaginations causing one hell of a racket. It sounds like... a disjointed soundtrack to an old horror movie played by virtuoso demented metalheads.

It’s an acquired taste. But once you go this far, there’s no way back. You can see music that infects the shelves of HMV for the visionless, unimaginative tripe it often is. This is an experiment being conducted on your ears. And once you’re finished you can’t be the same again. Music has evolved.

*(for legends, read ‘influential but poor‘)

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