King Buzzo with Trevor Dunn-Gift of Sacrifice (CD Ipecac Recordings)
King Buzzo has returned. During some down time from touring King Buzzo, AKA Buzz Osbourne, managed to record his follow up to 2014’s ‘This Machine Kills Artists’. That album was just Osbourne and an acoustic guitar, this time he has brought a friend along to help. The Beatles once said: “I’ll get by with a little help from my friends”. If that friend is Trevor Dunn, you’re probably going to be alright. Osbourne and Dunn are old friends. Having played together in Fantomas, travelling together with those Melvins/Mr. Bungle tours, Dunn’s day job, means they are on the same wavelength. The scratchy guitars and booming vocals of his debut are still in place, but Dunn has helped filled in the gaps with bass and vocals.
After the 40-second instrumental abstraction of ‘Mental Vomit’ the album gets underway proper with ‘Housing, Luxury, Energy’. It is six and a half minutes of mournful strings and downbeat acoustic guitar. It sets the tone for the rest of the album. This has the same energy you expect from Osbourne. The feedback and crushing guitars have been stripped away and in their place are delicate bass run, harrowing strings and stark guitars. ‘I’m Glad I Could Help Out’ features psychedelic motifs throughout. Instead of everything being optimistic Armstrong and Dunn are on a downer. This feels like the comedown after the Summer of Love’s gruesome end. ‘Delayed Clarity’ features one of the most uplifting guitar parts on the album. A sliding riff repeats and repeats bring some much-needed sonic sunshine to a rather gloomy affair. At around the halfway mark Osborne’s booming, raspy voice appears ushering in dark clouds overhead.
The downside to the album is that at times some of the songs feel just like sketches, instead of fully formed ideas. ‘Bird Animal’ is just the same pattern repeated for five minutes. The drones are really pleasant and the reverb on Osbourne’s voice works pretty well too but compared to ‘I’m Glad I Could Help Out’, ‘Mock She’ and ‘Delayed Clarity’ it doesn’t work as well.
If you’ve come here looking for something akin to the Melvins sonic assault you will disappointed. But at the same time, you won’t. Throughout the ‘Gift of Sacrifice’ Osbourne hammers his acoustic guitar as he does his electric, but instead of a wall of feedback, you get intricate fretwork. The level of power, as aggression, this is there. It is Osborne after all. But it is slightly more restrained. For the record Osbourne’s idea of restrained isn’t the same as everyone else’s, luckily, so there is still plenty of vim and vigour, or is that piss and vinegar, to go around. This is an album that despite its short duration at 34 minutes packs one hell of a punch. At times it feels like a companion piece to ‘Houdini’, or whatever you favourite Melvins album is. It’s all there, just slightly stripped back.
The king is back. All hail the king. NR.