shed some light: Dan Melchior

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A fine musician, this entry says it better than I...
Shepperton, England's tight-throated guitarslinger Dan Melchior is one of those intriguing performers who just sort of seem to have appeared out of nowhere, fully formed and freaked out. Melchior is a wild-eyed misanthrope playing the role of troubadour in a community too busy to take notice, which only inspires the racket to grow louder.
Indeed, it is a glorious racket.

Off-kilter garage-meets-country & western rhythms serve as the fuzzy backdrop for Melchior's shouted vocals and lyrics that are by turn absurd and brilliant. “Me and J.G. Ballard" details something as seemingly mundane (but in fact bitingly clever) as unknowingly shadowing reclusive writer J.G. Ballard through the course of his daily routine. Ballard's always a few steps ahead of Melchior, even buying the last of the peas at the grocery before Melchior has his turn.

The musical slant, combined with Melchior's neurotic lyrics (“Car alarms, sirens and construction sites/Got my ears ringing all day and all night/When I go somewhere where there's peace and quiet/I feel terrified," from “Ladies Underwear and Airline Socks"), and even his nasal vocals, earned positive comparisons to Scotland's similarly-minded Country Teasers. However, whereas the Teasers would continue to lace their records with nods to classic country (including some of the most warped, and oddly touching, covers of Tammy Wynette songs ever committed to tape), Melchior would reveal his own affinity for the sounds of Motown and gritty Americana music.

Although he worked with ex-Headcoatee Holly Golightly on 1997's Painted On, Mechior probably gained his first widespread recognition for his 1998 collaboration with Billy Childish (of the Headcoats and its assorted variations), Devil in the Flesh. A bare-bones acoustic blues affair, Devil in the Flesh is probably the most listener-friendly of Melchior's releases, as it strips away the layers of noise and weirdness that constitute much of his latter solo efforts. However, it also tends to be the least attention-grabbing and innovative of his albums, so there is a trade-off.

Melchior's collaborations with Golightly tend to shuffle past Melchior's typically dark and twisted take on blues and country in favor of Golightly's brighter vision of rootsy, back-porch Americana. The fact that it sounds so authentic is surprising more because they're Brits than because of their past musical endeavors.

Having cut his teeth concocting collaborations with Childish and Golightly, Melchior made his proper debut as a solo artist (with a backing band dubbed the Broke Revue) with Oldtime-Futureshock, an album that is virtually impossible to track down. 1999's Sympathy for the Record Industry sophomore effort, This Love Is Real, is more readily available and finds the group establishing the twisted garage-blues sound that would become their trademark.

2000's Instant Love finds Melchior returning to the stripped-down recording style he used with Childish on Devil in the Flesh, as he tears through his songs with an acoustic guitar. The result sounds like it was recorded on a Dictaphone, and although it reaches depths of lo-fi previously known only to fans of Guided by Voices, the low grade sound actually lends the album the air of immediacy of a well-worn cotton-country blues album from the ‘20s.

Mechior's first release for the seminal In the Red imprint, 2001's Heavy Dirt sounds right at home among that label's other residents (including the Bassholes and Country Teasers) with its fusion of raucous Stooges punk fury and country and blues melancholy. Melchior's grimy voice and writing style are intertwined with a sinister air that keeps things from drifting into any sort of bland/hokey Jon Spencer territory.

While Heavy Dirt was a solid album, Mechior seemed to finally settle into his own skin with 2002's Bitterness, Spite, Rage & Scorn (again on In the Red and again with the Broke Revue). Bitterness at last fully integrates Melchior's affinity for everything from Fred McDowell and Skip James to Phil Spector's wall-of-sound and R&B (check out the swinging riffs of “Gatecrasher" and “The Cruel Pang of Beauty"). A more playful album than previous releases dared to be, Bitterness often bounces along with bits ‘60s rock glee, only slightly obscured by the obligatory fuzz, as on “(In) Negative" with its swirling mass of guitars and nearly hypnotic piano refrain, and “Beast of the Field" with its gruff approximation of the Lovin' Spoonful.

Although Melchior's releases have continued to evolve and improve, mainstream recognition has eluded him (and most artists of the genre) despite the rise of tamer outfits like the Hives and White Stripes who carry the garage rock banner. — Karen E. Graves

ham on rye (ham on rye), Tuesday, 17 June 2003 07:19 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

Mosurock to thread. He put out a record not mentioned there.

Vic Funk, Tuesday, 17 June 2003 12:00 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

Are you referring to his recent four-song EP?

It's sad, should be more comments on this garage-rock madman..

ham on rye (ham on rye), Tuesday, 17 June 2003 14:34 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

this is the real shit, that's all i'm sayin

alex parger, Wednesday, 18 June 2003 14:44 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

i like melchior and all, but does anyone else think that a bio THAT FUCKING LONG for him is a bit ridiculous?

Yanc3y (ystrickler), Wednesday, 18 June 2003 14:46 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

I'm sure Third Eye Blind's is twice as long, so it's probably not long enough...

ham on rye (ham on rye), Wednesday, 18 June 2003 15:59 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

twelve years pass...

new rec Plays The Greys sounds swell - just discovering this guys massive back catalog - not really sure why he doens't have a more prominent presence in the 'conversation' - he writes consistently great songs, is far from one dimensional and keeps putting out grouse and interesting stuff- all hail Melchior I say

peanutbuttereverysingleday, Tuesday, 12 April 2016 05:58 (one year ago) Permalink

i guess maybe he is too prolific - maybe it is hard to keep up -or maybe the songs actually just stink after all - clearly i don't really get it

peanutbuttereverysingleday, Tuesday, 12 April 2016 10:54 (one year ago) Permalink

yup - he is apparently only an entity in my own mind

peanutbuttereverysingleday, Wednesday, 13 April 2016 06:53 (one year ago) Permalink

one year passes...

Dan Melchior's discography is pretty daunting - loads of records either solo or as Dan Melchior Und Das Menace or Dan Melchior's Broke Revue, and then the collaborations.

The ones I'm familiar with are:

Dan Melchior's Broke Revue - O Clouds Unfold!
Dan Melchior Und Das Menace - Thankyou Very Much, Dim Are The Lights 7", A Celebration of Middlesex 7" (split with the Pheromoans)

All of these are good. I like the John Cooper Clarke cover on Dim Are The Lights. Not sure where to go next though! Any recommendations?

Colonel Poo, Saturday, 15 April 2017 14:52 (nine months ago) Permalink

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