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To essay a concise, surefooted summation of the Melvins' catalog would be reductive at best, and laughable at worst. This is, of course, underground rock's trio of pranksters -- unpredictable and capable of complete musical about-faces in the turn of a measure. That said, Houdini is about as close as one gets to a representative Melvins album, and it vividly captures the band's unreconstructed power, vision, and musical strangeness. During the early-'90s purge of hair rock and candy-footed funk metal, the Melvins, as with many other acts, seemed fair game for a major label in search of another post-Nirvana gold mine. With Kurt Cobain's assistance, the band was snatched up -- and summarily dropped (after three brilliant albums, this being the first) -- by Atlantic. Though Houdini's immediate predecessors, Eggnog and Bullhead, pried open a few screwball chasms in the Melvins' syrupy distillation of Sabbath riffage and Flipper's noisy anti-punk, it was this album that displayed the full fruition of the outfit's sonic breadth, from the cough-syrup river drag of "Night Goat" to the revved-up "Honey Bucket," and from the creepy "Joan of Arc" to the glue-damaged "Sky Pup." Ringleader King Buzzo's riffs are stretched -- taffy-like -- to meltdown, and at other times they are razor sharp. Either way, they abound with a lumbering, lurching power. With their voluminous output and determination to continuously expand their sound regardless of musical trends, the Melvins oeuvre has begun to rival -- at least on paper -- the career arcs of Frank Zappa and Neil Young.