20 Years Ago: Melvins Ignore the Critics With ‘Hostile Ambient Takeover’
King Buzzo didn't let negative reviews stop him from believing in the Melvins' Hostile Ambient Takeover.
"Lots of people hate it. It got some really nasty reviews," he recalled in the liner notes for a vinyl reissue. "I remember playing the finished album in its entirety for a buddy of mine from New Zealand, and he just sat staring at the speakers with a hurt look on his face for the full 45-minute duration."
Rather than taking this feedback as a sign to go back to the drawing board, the Melvins released the LP as is. "I knew he was wrong," Buzzo explains. "I wouldn't change a goddamn thing about it."
Released on April 16, 2002, two years after the band's ambitious The Maggot / The Bootlicker / The Crybaby trilogy, Hostile Ambient Takeover offered a whirlwind tour through a variety of styles, from the short rockabilly-on-amphetamines blast of "Dr. Geek" through the slow-crawling 16-minute closing epic "The Anti-Vermin Seed."
"The Fool, The Meddling Idiot" starts off as one of the album's more traditional Melvins sludgy riff-fests before taking a sudden left turn into warped synth-pop. The frenzied "The Brain Center at Whipples," which takes its title from a beloved Twilight Zone episode, rides a guitar riff that sounds like the weird, slightly creepy uncle of the one that opens Stevie Nicks' "Edge of Seventeen."
Listen to Melvins Perform 'The Brain Center at Whipples'
Buzzo, drummer Dale Crover and bassist Kevin Rutmanis are joined on various tracks by Tool guitarist Adam Jones and multi-instrumentalist David Scott Stone, who add texture and depth with analog synthesizers, thunder sheets and other unusual instruments.
Hostile Ambient Takeover is also the LP where the Melvins began their long working relationship with engineer / mixer Toshi Kasai. "Those guys aren't afraid to be different," Kasai said of the band in a 2021 Tape Op interview. "That attitude totally mirrored my idea of making music. Working for other, mainstream, bigger people, I don't know how many times I wanted to quit. Then the Melvins showed up and it was like, 'This is it!'"
Buzzo concludes: "I sincerely believe [Hostile Ambient Takeover] is one of the best things we've ever done. We're really proud of it and it has stood the test of time."
Hostile Ambient Takeover originally arrived as a series of 7" vinyl singles, with one of the album's songs on side A, backed by newly recorded covers of Alice Cooper's "Return of the Spiders," Mott the Hoople's "Jerkin' Krokus" and tracks by Ramones, the Gun Club and the Tubes. (It was also released in CD format.) The album received a proper 12" reissue in 2021, with the B-sides collected onto a separate vinyl release, Hostile Ambient Besides.