Often, when we listen to new music, we base our opinion and understanding of what we hear on what we’ve heard before. If the music sounds similar to something we’ve heard previously, it’s likely that we’ll use our past memories to make assumptions about the new content.
Unhelpfully, we reframe contemporary music within the themes of history, and use the past to observe the present.
In the case of Melt, and their loud guitar, ‘dirty’ (lo-fi), sound, it’s likely that their music will remind us of sound which came to be defined as ‘grunge’. It’s therefore likely that we’ll use popularised stereotypes of grunge to assume we know what Melt are trying to communicate; themes of slackerdom, anger and dropping out.
If we followed this thought process through to perhaps it’s logical conclusion, the effects of Melt’s music, as defined by the popular history of grunge, will have use rebelling against the government, protesting at G8 summits, and generally being disruptive. Actually, stereotyping grunge doesn’t sound so bad does it!?
For us to be truly objective about Melts music, we need to frame their work in today’s culture. What does a loud, angry, guitar sound mean in the late 2010’S? And does grunge still communicate the same ideas it did 30 years ago?
Pulse kicks off with a 57 second intro. Loud, and filled with screeching, feedback-heavy, guitars, it’s an introduction closer to Hendrix’s ‘and the gods made love’ than anything from Seattle. Short, heavy and filled with psychedelia ‘Intro’ does what it should; preparing the listener for something different. It’s a nice trick that’s seldom used.
First full-length track ‘Take’ is menacing from start to finish. Starting with a low ‘come as you are’ deep bass, it explodes into dark, dirty, rock. As across the EP, vocalist Sam Avery’s leads are distorted in a Scott Weiland style, providing a menace and sense of self-exposure which is rare in today’s Instagram happy culture. Let’s face it, much of rock has become washed out, overly produced and lacks edge. This isn’t the case.
The sense of dread continues across the EP. ‘Caged’ the standout track is underpinned by guitar feedback and guitar solos, feeling closer to Velvet Revolver than grunge. Focused around a vocal ‘howl’ the track is primitive, raw and explosive, exploring the frustrations of living in a world with pushed behaviours and incomprehensive societal norms. Well produced, emotive and angry, this is what modern music should sound like and these are the narratives modern music should explore.
Pulse is brilliant; it takes musical and narrative risks and makes a genuinely angry noise.
Let’s hope the EP is considered by all music fans and not just placed neatly into a ‘grunge’ box and left for people who believe they like that music, or the ideas which are attributed to that music. This is too good to be generalised.