by Jeremy Zerbe (@jznonotthatjayz)
It’s hard not to talk about Big Business without talking about the Melvins. Both hail from the Seattle area; both create massive, bombastic music that slips in somewhere right between metal and punk; and after bassist Jared Warren and drummer Coady Willis helped create the two best Melvins albums since their early-90s heyday (and quite possibly the finest live versions of the band), the two bands and their sounds have become almost inextricable. In fact, even Wikipedia seems to agree, mistakenly placing the Melvins footer at the bottom of the Big Business page.
Which was why I just couldn’t get that excited about the band’s 2009 release, Mind the Drift with its slightly softer touch and focus on Mastodon-esque guitar noodling and layered vocal harmonies. It was the bands first record with a full-time guitarist in Toshi Kasai, and the dynamic of the group had definitely changed, only to change again with Battlefields Forever in 2013, which featured an entirely different full-time guitarist in Scott Martin. With that album, the band roared back to form, fuller and more confident than ever before.
Now, with Command Your Weather, the lineup has changed yet again, back to just the core members of Jared and Coady. And this time they’ve decided to eschew a guitarist entirely, producing a record full of some of their most interesting (and most Melvins-y) songs since the band’s early days. In place of the guitar, Jared has found a certain fondness for his octave pedal, as well as atmospheric additions like bells, filling the space well as the two-piece roil through the album’s brief thirty-nine minutes.
Still, the record feels like it’s missing something and that something is, quite frankly, the guitar. Octave pedals are a dangerous tool, best used for short bursts of transcendent weirdness like Jack White’s ripping solos on Icky Thump or understated shimmer like on any number of records by Pile. They’re kind of like sugar. Or cocaine. And used throughout an entire album, they start to make my teeth hurt. But with the quality of the songs on Command Your Weather, it’s a nitpicky complaint. From the eerie feedback and chimes that open the album on “Last Legs” to the gut-rumbling “Blacker Holes” to the church-organ sounds of “Send Help,” the band expertly explores the space they’ve been granted by paring down. I just can’t help but wonder what more they’d have been able to do with a searing guitar line here or there.
But whatever your feelings on the band’s latest makeup may be, Command Your Weather shows exactly why Jared and Coady will always be the band’s creative core. Whether with Buzz and Dale, with any number of guest guitarists, or simply alone in a studio, the duo continues to create some of the best, most interesting heavy music on the planet. And after eleven years and five albums, that’s quite a feat.