Melvins’ albums Houdini (1993), Stoner Witch (1994), and Stag (1996) have been out-of-print on vinyl for over two decades following their initial release on Atlantic Records – until now. Jack White’s Third Man Records have reissued all three albums on vinyl. Each record is pressed on 180-gram vinyl in gatefold sleeves.
The repeating sitar-into-guitar-chord start of the album makes it clear that Stag isn’t going to be quite like anything the Melvins had yet recorded to that point. There’s such a strong and audible emphasis on the band really exploring the possibilities of the studio throughout that the effect is breathtaking — it’s a huge, epic sound that’s also quite varied, a fine indication of where the band would be going in later years. The roots of the Melvins remain clear — direct, deliberate, and focused crunch — but they don’t feel constrained by them, bringing in everything from more stripped-down space in the arrangements to stylistic forays revolving around the central approach.
Hearing horns and scratching helping match the monster riffs on “Bar X the Rocking M” is at once a mind-f*ck and something that makes total sense, as does the mini-prog epic “Buck Owens,” packing in time-signature shifts and a mid-section trip-out and more in three minutes’ time. Short, almost fragmentary songs like “Hide,” with its quiet guitar chime, and the weird, sparkly drones and burbles of “Soup” help to further flesh out the inspired feeling of Stag. Osborne’s vocal delivery and various treatments thereupon are fantastic, ranging from dreamy float and gentle croon to rasping roar, paralleling Stag’s overall emphasis on trying anything at least once to see what works. Check his winsome, light turn on “Black Bock” for a real trip — it’s hard to believe this is the same guy who sang on “Hooch” and “It’s Shoved.” Songs like “Tipping the Lion” and “Goggles” capture the spirit of Stag excellently, able to switch from quieter to louder moments and back again effortlessly. Then there’s the twinkly, Chipmunks-sung “Captain Pungent,” which will leave most listeners paralyzed with fright or with laughter, if not both.