The Melvins' Power Disinfectant

How their sludgy 1992 album Lysol became the blueprint for the metal underground

The B-side of Lysol contains a punishing trio of covers: "Second Coming" and "The Ballad of Dwight Fry" by longtime Osborne fave Alice Cooper and a stripped-down reimagining of "Sacrifice" by splat-punk void-gazers Flipper. "Bruce [Loose], the singer from Flipper, told me that Will Shatter stole that whole song from some anti-World War I poem that he found," says Osborne. "Unbeknownst to everybody else. That makes it even better!" Lysol's most jubilant moment comes in the album's final two minutes, the sky-punching ecstasy-metal of "With Teeth." It's the favorite part of Steve Brooks, frontman for similarly blisstastic doomers like Floor and Torche. "That song is just fucking beautiful. It's a very triumphant song, but it's very sad, too," says Brooks, who, like Anderson, was a lifelong follower of the Melvins (both guitarists boast that they bought Lysol on release day). "When they first came through Florida, it was like when people saw the Sex Pistols and changed music. There would be no Goslings, Cavity, Floor, Syrup, Dove. Who knows what we would have all sounded like?" Osborne, who is usually evasive about his lyrical content, admits the optimistic feel of "With Teeth" was no accident. "The lyrics are meant to convey a sense that you're doing the best job that you can, regardless of whatever it may be," he says. "Everything's fine because you did the best that you could do. That's all anybody can ask."

After about 15,000 copies of Lysol were printed on CD, vinyl, and cassette, a snag almost sidelined the album entirely—the manufacturers of Lysol were none too pleased that their brand name was being used without permission. Crover originally leaked Lysol (the album name) to a fanzine writer; Lysol (the brand) responded by having a private detective call the Boner offices pretending to be a music writer from New York. Since the Melvins were coming up for the CMJ Festival, label head Flynn thought nothing of the call and sent the private eye a promotional copy. Another fake writer showed up to the Boner warehouse shortly thereafter. "He seemed very surprised I didn't just hand out copies to anyone who showed up at the door," says Flynn. "I gave him a one-sheet promo page. And then the next day, he came back with an older corporate lawyer and dumped two pounds of paperwork on me explaining why I can't do anything with Lysol.

"The main lawyer guy was this old, crusty man that basically had no sense of humor and no understanding of what was going on. It was like dealing with a robot," he continues. "Plus, I basically lied in court and he caught me. When I originally went to court, I said the record hadn't been made yet. I denied I actually made them because I was afraid that they wanted to take them all—which is true. After court was over, he said, 'I know you lied in there. I know these things are manufactured. You wanna see a picture of it?' That's how I figured out that the guy who originally got it was a private detective."

The Melvins: Turning the alt-rock bubble into sludgy metal.
Mackie Osborne
The Melvins: Turning the alt-rock bubble into sludgy metal.
Courtesy Melvins.net

The company agreed on a compromise; Flynn had to unwrap every copy, place a black sticker over the offending trademark, and black out the CD spines. It was a Herculean task he mostly performed on his own. "There was already a few thousand at the English distributor," he says. "They had the same unpleasantness, with an English legal team coming into their warehouse and having to check everything out. It was even weirder there because Lysol doesn't even exist as a brand."

In the years since, Boner has been printing copies without the lawyer-rankling word—the album is now technically known as Melvins—and Osborne says a reissue still isn't out of the question. ("We better do it soon before the bottom drops out of this whole goddamn thing," he says.) But for now, the Melvins are simply looking forward. Now in their 28th year, they just released Sugar Daddy Live, their first live album with the deafening two-drummer lineup they've had since 2006, and are continuing to put out their usual deluge of seven-inches and limited-edition collector bait. "I want to die before the Melvins do," says Brooks. "A world without the Melvins would be a sad world to live in."

The Melvins will play 'Lysol' in its entirety on June 6 at Music Hall of Williamsburg

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