To create Hunger, John Dwyer stuck his hand deep into the muddy mind and dusty demos of Dan Melchior—throwaways from his more recent und Das Menace days, preceded by 20 plus years of creations, contributions, and collaborations—and crafted an anti-cohesive collection that sounds like something crusty unearthed from the past, though its heart beats in the present. Hunger is smattered with styles from psych-folk to grunge-y death metal and everything odd in-between. The only thing it lacks is sanity, and who would prefer that over Melchior’s beautiful brand of strange?
Listening to Hunger, it’s easy to hear why Dwyer loves the man. Tracks like “Robotic Footprints” and even “Rip It To Pieces” could be mistaken for Thee Oh Sees tracks or at least their brethren. “Rip It To Pieces” is a short shot of relatively straightforward garage rock, while “Robotic Footprints” features the kind of echoed vocal noises that stamp the majority of Thee Oh Sees’ output. At other places on the record, Melchior sounds more like Syd Barrett, particularly on the watery and wandering “Birdz” and “Night of Fear”, that takes the Syd sound and adds a level of lyrical cogency usually lacking. The record’s title track is a poppy, bouncy number that sounds like you accidentally tripped onto a radio station still transmitting from the late 60s garage scene—distorted and upbeat.
But as much as Melchior pulls on the past, the drips and drabs of Hunger feel immediate and present in their authentic weirdness. “A Wizard Doesn’t Need A Computer”, the album’s first track, burns a synth with a tribal ferocity while an almost Osbourne-like howl warns against playing for the kids, balanced with a near-robotic deadpan chorus that matches the song’s title. Whatever helped make up its parts, the whole is something completely new. “Dungeon Blues” is pure evil, blowing out sounds and screeches into a muffled, foreboding rhythm that blasts through the idea of what a record is supposed t0 sound like, pulling on the part of you that fucking loves disorder.
The variety of the record and Melchior’s truly unique sounds make it un-missable, but also difficult to jam on from start to finish. Most of the songs play better as singles, and some, like “Her Incredible Shoes” and “Spooky Eyes” drag on for too long, caught in annoying repetition or uncomfortable spoken word that may explain how those tracks made it to the cutting room floor to begin with.
It may be a patchwork quilt, only loosely stitched together, but Hunger is worth wrapping yourself up in, and with part of the proceeds going towards Melchior’s wife as she battles cancer, this dose of distortion is sure to leave you with the warm fuzzies.