The latest Ipecac Records serving by proto-punk/metal-heads/Gods of Thunder The Melvins — this one titled, counter-intuitively, Hold It In — sounds like another experiment from the California-by-way-of-Washington grunge founders, and supplies even more ammunition to the argument that the group is becoming, at least in how structure influences sound, less of a garage-rock outfit and more of a revolving-door collective. Yes, yes, this is the group’s first proper release as a quartet since 2010’s The Bride Screamed Murder – but it’s not what you think. Gone missing (again) is the Big Business bottom end. Let’s welcome into the fray contributions from two Butthole Surfers alums: guitarist Paul Leary and bassist J.D. Pinkus.
The odd thing about the latest venture, given the line-up behind the 12-song offering, is how much it doesn’t sound like the Melvins/Butthole Surfers mash-up you were expecting. Leary and Pinkus, though both sound like they’re having a blast, largely sublimate their weighty discographies in favor of the thud and wallop of The Melvins’ heavy fuzz attacks. So, in turn, we get the venomous “Bride of Crankenstein,” Tool-ish rants like “Onions Make The Milk Taste Bad” and the familiar, plodding doom of “Sesame Street Meat.” So, just don’t go into this one expecting “I Saw An X-Ray of A Girl Passing Gas” by way of “Boris.” This is a straighter razor than that.
The sonic touches and interesting departures that distinguish this from your run-of-the-mill, it’s-been-15-minutes-let’s-release-another-album Melvins CD, however, are worth noting. The Leary-penned “You Can Make Me Wait” is, by Melvins standards at least, straight-up fuzz-pop and “I Get Along (Hollow Moon)” is a righteous ho-down, complete with addictively bouncy bass from Pinkus. Other moments sometimes fall flat, like the noisy “Barcelonian Horseshoe Pit,” which could have benefited from more editing, and the 12-minute closer “House of Gasoline,” which – screw it! – doesn’t need an editor but could’ve been even more focused in its art-rage if drummer Dale Crover weren’t the only one providing direction. “Piss Pisstopherson” grooves and shakes, in a Blue Cheer-amped kind of way. “Eyes On You,” another Leary tune, is a riot anthem. But am I the only one who doesn’t like the almost-jangly power-chord shimmy of “Brass Cupcake?” The whole thing’s hit and miss, yes, but, truth be told, there are way more hits than misses. And, to that end, it’s a pretty good outing.
The real question that, a few records by the band into the year, we beg to ask: how can listeners continue to assess and digest The Melvins’ ever-expanding catalog when we get new Melvins records before the last ones stop spinning? Buzz Osbourne is entering serious Robert Pollard/Guided By Voices territory these days and, while his solo/acoustic This Machine Kills Artists and The Melvins 1983’s Tres Cabrones were great, there’s only so long we continue without overload.
Or maybe not. The Melvins never seem to tire of ideas or piss and vinegar or volume, for that matter, so maybe we just need to keep emptying our wallets – it’s a tough job but someone’s got to do it. Hold It In, though not essential listening, is worth the money most will dish out for it and, even though it’s another departure on the road to another “proper Melvins record,” whatever the hell that means anymore, it’s a fitting addition to the mantle. I, for one, am coming along for the ride.