Would I be going too far to call Buzz Osborne "iconic"? He's the guitarist/ vocalist/ songwriter of the Melvins who have been around since before 1986. He may or may not have invented grunge music. And even if he didn't invent grunge, he introduced Dave Grohl to Kurt Cobain and Krist Novocelic so he at least lent a hand. He is the guitarist for Fantomas, one of my favorites. He has awesome hair. No, I don't think it's too much to call him iconic.
And that is why his latest solo album works. It's one more step up a very long ladder. "This Machine Kills Artists" (which seems to be a play on folk legend Woodie Guthrie's "This Machine Kills Fascists" guitar) is simply King Buzzo and his Buck Owens American acoustic guitar jamming. That's it. There are no electric guitars, no amplifiers, no drums, just Buzz.
Now, when most of us think of an artist who traditionally plays heavy music playing acoustic, we tend to think of an MTV Unplugged type of thing. Some watered down, sappy set filled with "acoustic" versions of heavier material meant to make the girls drop their pants. I'm pretty certain no pants will be dropping after hearing the material on "This Machine Kills Artists". It's just not that kind of record.
"I have no interest in sounding like a crappy version of James Taylor or a half assed version of Woody Guthrie,” explains Buzz. “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."
Why an acoustic album? According to Buzz's press material, he writes most of the Melvins' songs on an acoustic guitar and simply transfers them to electric and that is exactly how this album sounds.
"This Machine Kills Artists" is not a showcase for Osborne's technical prowess on the guitar although the way he handles an acoustic is different, to say the least . There are no sweeping arpeggios nor is this a folk album. What you'll find are 17 aggressively played acoustic songs and the vocal stylings of King Buzzo himself. There are no frills, no extras and no BS. It's just a man and his music, naked and alone.
So, here's the thing about the album... you'll either love it or you'll hate it. Buzz rips through the 17 songs, none of them much longer than three minutes, in his own, unique style. If you like one song, you'll like them all.
My only criticism of the record is the various effects he uses for his voice, at times, make it difficult to understand the lyrics but generally you're able to get the point. Make no mistake, not understanding every word in no way diminishes the power of the music. I do think, however, that more coherent lyrics would have brought the songs on "This Machine Eats Artists" to another level.
Allow me to share some of the song titles; "Dark Brown Teeth", "Vaulting Over A Microphone", "How I Became Offensive" and "Useless King Of The Punks" just to name a few.
In the end, this is an album by a man who has seen and done quite a bit over the course of 31 years. He and the Melvins have released over 30 albums of studio and live material. He has done five albums with Fantomas as well as a number of collaborations with bands like Tool, Jello Biafra and more. "This Machine Eats Artists" is just the next step in the evolution of an icon. If you love Buzz and the Melvins then I think you'll like this latest work. If not, give it a listen anyway because it's always good to expand your horizons and pushing boundaries should always be rewarded. Long live King Buzzo!