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The Melvins: Neither here nor there

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The Melvins' Neither here nor there is either a compilation album with 211 pages of art-drenched liner notes or an art book with an accompanying soundtrack. Either way, it brilliantly sums up the predominant theme of founding members King Buzzo and Dale Crover's 20-year music career: gleefully scary confusion. While always true to the same Sabbath-and-Kiss-trapped-a-bowl-of-amplified-oatmeal aesthetic vision, The Melvins' motivations have never been easy to gauge for diehard fans or for critics who have loved, hated and ultimately ignored the band's experiments as a mere "joke on music." This balanced hits-and-rarities disc will thrill devotees but certainly not win any converts to the skewed metallic world of Melvania—although the book might. It is an immaculately assembled and disturbingly beautiful collection of images of antiquated toys, masks and found objects, always with an eye to monsters, gloom and decay—but an innocent, cartoonish children's eye. To listen to the greatest heaving, crunching works by the world's heaviest band set against a visual backdrop of such bright imagery is to be reminded of a musical lesson nearly obliterated by the shallow atrocities of nu-metal, rap-metal and all things Durst-uous: Noise can still be an important and challenging big-A art form as much as anything visual, and "heavy" is by no means synonymous with "depressed," "angry," or "stupid." —NIcholas Collias