Vinyl Corner is a feature where we take a look at vinyl pressings of various albums and weigh them up to see just how good they sound, how well they’re pressed and what sort of packaging to expect, as well as giving a brief overview of the music itself. Today we’re taking a look at a long awaited solo debut – Melvins sticksman Dale Crover’s ‘The Fickle Finger Of Fate’.
If there’s one thing Melvins are both known and loved for it’s their eccentricities. Thoroughly unpredictable and near-impossible to pigeonhole, it’s no surprise that drummer Dale Crover’s solo debut is every bit the charming anomaly as his work with Buzz Osbourne. ‘The Fickle Finger Of Fate’ is an off-beat, earthy collection of DIY psych-pop jams and deeply experimental soundscape tinkering. Although Crover is best known as a drummer, he handles much of the varied instrumentation on his debut himself – a decision that lends him the leverage to pursue some remarkably abstract sonic ideas, even by the standards of his previous work. Although a continuously odd album, ‘The Fickle Finger Of Fate’ is certainly an immersive one and there’s deceptively sharp quality songwriting going on underneath the album’s surface. Split largely between fleeting instrumentals – often almost exclusively rhythmic – and more concrete fully formed songs, the former offers a fractured charm to the album that helps rather than hinders its unique atmosphere, whilst the latter offers satisfying, well crafted avant-rock gems which despite – or perhaps because of – their deviant attitude, lodge themselves in your brain with the sort of ease usually withheld for the sharpest of pop.
The album is available in a few different colours, but we’re looking at the standard black version here. Pressed by California’s Pirates Press and released via Joyful Noise Records, this is a great sounding LP with a balanced sound-stage and very low noise floor. Playback is excellent throughout with no surface noise at all on our copy. The album itself is roughly mid-weight – fairly thick but not unusually so – and from new is very clean, free of static buildup and without any signs of handling from the factory. Sonically intriguing, Crover frequently plays with loopy, high pitched drones and gurgling bass-heavy synth lines on the album’s more experimental moments and throws thick walls of hard rock fuzz at the speakers during the record’s more conventional chapters. It’s a degree of variety that lends the LP varied sonic properties but, nevertheless, the vinyl pressing handles this well, with the album’s various tonalities well represented and never overblown or undercooked.
Packaging is slick on this release, with the fittingly bizarre cover art printed in hues of vivid red and striking white, boasting sharp image quality throughout. Spine text is clear and bold, and the presentation is generally attractive, with an aesthetic both eye-catching and in keeping with the tone of the music it represents. The sleeve itself is a non-gatefold affair printed on average-weight card but the inclusion of a solid card inner sleeve is a definite bonus and a good way to further the release’s visual coherency – although for long term use, putting the record in a polylined sleeve would be a good idea. Presentation is rounded off nicely with clearly marked yet attractive label designs as well as a hype sticker on the shrinkwrap proclaiming it to be “20 new songs of anthemic heaviness & head-fuckery” – far from typical marketing spiel, but it seems perversely fitting.
‘The Fickle Finger Of Fate’ is a rewarding album that throws more than its fair share of surprises at its listeners. The vinyl version is well pressed and sounds great both in terms of auditory presence and surface noise (or lack thereof); presentation rounds off the package nicely and this is generally a rock solid pressing.