Well look at that: it’s a new Melvins album, their first of 2014 after a double helping last year. At this point in their career, what else is there to say?
Well, one thing you can say is that this is collaboration of sorts with members of the Butthole Surfers, with Paul Leary and Jeff Pinkusan the latest pair to walk through their revolving door for rhythm sections. It’s an alliance of 80s weirdo survivors that now it’s happened it seems bizarre it didn’t happen sooner. But were you to say, “the Butthole Surfers are on this” to anyone unaware of their presence on Hold It In the response is most likely to be, “where?” The names may grace the cover but the headline simply reads The Melvins – and The Melvins is who it uniformly sounds like. They’re peddling the same choppy riffed metal heroism (with the occasional drawn out outro dragging songs on far more than is necessary) that they have been doing for at least the last decade of their 30 year career. Sure, there are a few stylistic left turns – this time into surprisingly sugary pop territory – but then there is always spots of genre hopping on Melvins records. And, as always, they’re pretty hit or miss – You Can Make Me Wait is a weird vocoder led mess which brings the record’s momentum to a halt after the excellent Bride of Crankenstein kicked things off in style, whereas Eyes on You is quite possibly the most straight forward pop-rock number they’ve ever penned as well as being the most overtly political. King Buzzo channels his inner Jello Biafra (it’s worth noting at this stage that The Melvins formed a mere 4 years after the Dead Kennedies) to inject a bit of surveillance paranoia into proceedings, “they’ll put you in a cell/they’ll let you rot in hell/they know you can’t fight back/they’ve got that patriot act/they got drones in the air/their eyes are everywhere.” There’s always one of these experiments that somehow actually works and weirdly, despite being so far out of the Melvin’s usual zone of operations, still sounds like the Melvins.
So yeah: This is a Melvins record. If you know The Melvins you know what you’re going to get. And if you don’t, well, this might not be the very best place to start – the hit/miss ratio is decent but not quite up to their Nude With Boots/(a) senile animal purple patch – but you could do a lot worse. Just be aware that they’ve never been afraid to go for quantity over quality and their three decade career can best be described as, ‘willfully chequered,’ as they still can never resist messing with the listener – check out nonsensical noise instrumental Barcelonean Horseshoe Pit (sure, why not?) or the inexplicable accordian and xylophine mid-section in The Bunk Up. For those more au fait with their way of doing things there are enough fine slices of Melvin’s riffery to add that you can add to that already bulging Melvin’s Best of you’ve been making and be confident they’ll fit in just fine. And no one will judge you if you feel like editing out those lazy jam endings. There’s always plenty of fat to trim away to get to the meat of a Melvins record – these days perhaps more than there used to be – but the fact is there’s still nothing that tastes quite like it.