REVIEWED: Melvins - 'Working With God'
It’s all a load of bollocks really. Take this whole rock ‘n’ roll game, where we still enjoy the little suspension of disbelief when (at least in the Before Times before plague beset the land) we could enjoy the sight of spike-clad guitar fiddler who might revel in the name of Viscount Verdelent, but is actually a joiner from Droitwich called William or something. It’s this sense of drama that drives us in our droves to these shows, if only to see if an inadvertent wipe of the arm across a sweaty forehead with a spiky wristband means he’s rechristened Wllam.
Anyway, amid all the ups and downs and trends and general craziness both in rock music and the real world we’re forced to spend a disturbing amount of time in, we’ve always had The Melvins. Led by guitarist/vocalist King Buzzo and drummer Dale Crover along with a cadre of guests, cameos and otherwise rotating cast of musicians, they’ve essentially been thumbing their nose at the music business and committed to being themselves for nigh on three decades. While they did flirt with major label stuff during the grand grunge explosion (although to be fair for Melvins it was more of a pity date) they were always too smart and self-aware to be chewed up and spat out. Even when signed to Atlantic they never really concerned themselves with writing an obvious radio hit. While close associate Kurt Cobain (who for some reason we’re contractually obliged to mention every time Melvins come up) and Nirvana caught the public’s imagination, the Melvins just did what they had been doing all along.
And so it continues with ‘Working With God’ which sees (the) Melvins at their most overtly playful yet. Anarchic punk spirit is part of the Melvins’ DNA - the puntastic tracks, the sometimes nonsensical lyrics, the cod opera vocal stylings of King Buzzo that surely mocks some of the more earnest singers in rock. But don’t mistake this levity for something like the painful posturings of Steel Panther. Unlike that collection of turd-polishing poodle-haired morons, this is wit rather than just fuckwit. Having said that, overlaying simple profanity over a popular song is also a form of wit, so when they open with ‘I Fuck Around’, you’re hardly shocked. If anything, it just goes to show how banal the Beach Boys could be before they started sharing spliffs with Charles Manson. With the (in)formalities dealt with, the Melvins crack their knuckles and get down to business. For those of you at the back who have somehow avoided the Melvins since 1983, here’s a brief rundown. Around the time we gave up all hope in the real world (i.e. circa 2010), Melvins decided doom and gloom was enough, and after that year’s release of ‘The Bride Screamed Murder’, the Melvins seemingly decided that now was the time for more fun in their lives. Granted there was already a healthy dose of dark humour, especially if you have a fondness for sinister crawling ambience that could be played to clear out unwanted house guests.
Henceforth, the Melvins brand (for want of a better word) has not only seen them cycle through line-ups on their albums since, including the likes of Butthole Surfers’ Jeff Pinkus and Mr. Bungle’s Mr Trevor Dunn on bass, but this album also sees them play with first Melvins drummer Mike Dillard. You can hear they’re having a ball on this album: as well as the crude cover of Beach Boys, ‘Negative No No’ is prime rock Melvins from way back before superfan Kurt Cobain played Buckshot Buckaroo; the type of dogpile riff that powers their live sets and they toss out with casual and almost insolent ease. For a band whose charms might not be immediately obvious, ‘Bouncing Rick’ is what we all come here for - part Sabbathian, part Black Flag punk energy and all elbow-swinging riff that will gleefully catch more than a few noses in the next Melvins moshpit. As a companion single, ‘The Great Good Place’s’ more locomotive-propelled riffs recall some sort of Tad-esque pulse, together with lashings of Greg Ginn atonal leads. And if you find a more effective ear-worm waltz than ‘Brian The Horse-Faced Goon’, please feel free to write in, if you can get your now-jiggling arms to stop flailing about..
It’s not all swinging riffs though, and there are some moments that don’t 100% work: ‘Caddy Daddy’ is a slow-boiling sludge of a track that bubbles with pleasing malevolence, but the same can’t be said about late album ‘Hot Fish’, and ‘Hund’ sounds like a reprise other faster and better songs like ‘Boy Mike’ earlier on in the running order. Having said that, they have already planned for this eventuality with the ‘1 Fuck You’ and ‘Fuck You’ combo (the latter just consisting of the preceding riff and screaming, and have a guess what sentiment pervades the former). And that’s just pure Melvins, continuing to do whatever the fuck they like.
‘Working With God’ is available from Ipecac Recordings