Originally published in Popdose Jan. 22, 2014
There are certainties in this universe and, to cop a phrase from that shaman Donald Rumsfeld, known knowns. Time will accumulate in seconds and minutes and hours. People will be born and people will die. Empires will be built and nations will fall. And The Melvins will release a record every few months and it will be awesome.
And so it goes.
Now, everyone’s favorite rock/metal/grunge/post-core outfit of noise-makers emerges triumphant on Tres Cabrones (Ipecac), its 19th studio record proper and its second appearance on disc as the “1983 lineup.” That’s right, just when you were getting used to Bulls and Melvins Lite, there’s no Big Business bottom end in the rhythm section, and, this time out, no Crover behind the kit. The latest Melvins shindig features a dozen songs with original drummer Mike Dillard providing time, Dale Crover shifting to bass (and doing a pretty damn admirable job at it) and Buzz Osbourne, as ever, leading the way with his unstoppable leading man chops. And it is F-to-the-A good.
Osbourne, who wrote most of Tres Cabrones, has said in a few interviews and promo material that, while he was anxious to bring Dillard back into the fray after the ’83 line-up pseudo-comp Mangled Demos (check it out!), he wanted the trio to work with new material. Good call. Rather than sounding like some kind of archival grunge document – for the record: Mangled Demos was good, if dated (obviously) – the new record is incredibly vital. Yes, yes, this is The Melvins, in some sense, paying homage to Sabbath and 70s stoner rock and it is goddamn good. Plus, you can hear the listener exhale from his bong on oddball tres-a-capella outings like “99 Bottles of Beer.” (Yes, that “99 Bottles of Beer.”)
But King Buzzo’s solos are razor sharp and then some, Crover displays an impressive and rubbery kind of angularity on the bass and Dillard? Well, you’d never know the guy’s been on the straight and narrow, working some union job in the Pacific Northwest since the Reagan administration. Boy can wallop that kit.
There’s plenty of key highlights to share, though I’m partial to the three that get the whole damn thing rolling: “Doctor Mule” (no shades of “Doctor Geek,” sorry H.A.T. fans), “City Dump” and “American Cow.” On the closing numbers, the bastardly Melvins shift a bit from the sludgy hard rock (and the, again, oddball numbers like “Beer” and the even more comical “Tie My Pecker To A Tree”) and display quite the knack at the brand of punk everyone else was playing in ’83 when they were reinventing genres, so to speak. “Walter’s Lips,” though the subject matter is not exactly of the moment (It’s Walter Kronkite, for Christ’s sakes!), is all piss and vinegar, complete with a kick-ass refrain that has nothing to do with that alt-rock staple “Molly’s Lips.” And “Stick’em Up Bitch,” whose intro seems to cop The Dicks’ “Hate The Police” (is it just me?) is bitter and anti-authoritarian in all of the right ways. The closing – I won’t spoil it – will bring a smile to any punk’s face.
So, where does the disc fall in The Melvins’ lexicon? Hard to say. It’s clearly not a “Melvins album proper” so it’s difficult to weigh the songs against takes on Bullhead or Houdini or Hostile Ambient Takeover, et cetera. But it’s certainly certainly certainly not just for record-collecting completists or feather-haired hipsters using their trust funds to get their hands on every piece of wax Buzzo every touched. Call it a successful experiment, much in the vein of The Melvins’ outings with Jello Biafra. Call it a fun aside, like The Crybaby (the whole Trilogy, really) or the group’s AmRep singles series. Call it whatever the hell you want.
Bottom line: it’s been a few months since Everybody Loves Sausages and we were due for something great.
And The Melvins, as ever, delivered.