Enigmatic. Abrasive. Obtuse. Confounding. Musical genius. A creative juggernaut. There are some compliments that serve as heaps of false praise from the fakery of the music industry machine, and there are some that need to be taken to heart. When the latter is true, you know we are discussing true artists and most conventional thinking can be left at the door. Whom we are discussing is Buzz Osborne, and what we have described is his 30-plus year career making music, mostly with The Melvins. Never short on imagination, the prolific King Buzzo in this guise thrills us all these year later on his new acoustic masterwork and first true solo album, This Machine Kills Artists (Ipecac).
Although it may seem odd for a guy on the surface who has built a career on obnoxiously loud, often experimental, over-driven guitar work, like everything in Buzz’s story; the truth has a way of sneaking up on you. At the heart of this idea is this: a great written song will work in any musical guise, and Buzz has always been a master at song craft. These unpretentious songs are not little ditty’s to be harmonized around the campfire like ‘Kumbaya’. They are as menacing, uncomfortable, and interesting as anything in The Melvins catalog. From the lead track ‘Dark Brown Teeth’ through out the final notes, Buzz takes the listener on a journey through his mind. A scary place sometimes, true, but weirdly comforting too. Tracks like ‘Rough Democracy’, ‘Drunken Baby’ and ‘New River’ are flawlessly played. These songs are not lacking for riffs either, with a lot of baddass licks on display. When Buzz does add his backing tracks, he takes the kind of care cleverness you have come to expect from him.
Then let’s talk about vocals. Coming off as rough and ethereal as ever, this presentation adds a sorrowful deepness, with a triumphant delivery that will over-power you. The wistfulness of some of the lyrics like on ‘Drunken Baby’, ‘The Vulgar Joke’, ‘How I Became Offensive’, and ‘Useless King of The Punks’ may have various meanings to Buzz, but they stirred my soul listening to them.
There have been some similar albums like this one of quality lately, but This Machine Kills Artists has raised the bar. As he has done at every stop in his career, Buzz will continue to inspire, frighten, and change.
KEITH (KEEFY) CHACHKES