31 August 2016

Melvins - Basses Loaded

The Melvins should not really need an introduction, but the briefest of outlines - formed in 1983, The Melvins have been causing chaos with the world, my mind and generally everyone who listens to any of their albums.  With somewhat of an open door policy to band members (even on the same album), the band have never really had a steady line up, to be honest they have never really had a steady style of albums either with each release being different to the next.  You can never accuse them of being boring, keeping it safe or even being dull and stuck in a rut.  On this album, there are ten different musicians performing at different point, with special attention being given to the bass guitar on the album as they go through them like a teenage goes through a paper hanky box during a long and lonesome night.  This was released in June 2016 through the mighty Ipecac Records and I have been sitting on it for a while now, just waiting for the right time to review it; the time (as they say) is now and let us see how this album has turned out....

The first track is called "The Decay of Lying" which features King Buzzo (who will feature on every track), Dale Crover (on drums) and Steven McDonald from Off! & Redd Kross.  This is a slow, sludge, doom number which is the perfect song to start the album; doom & sludge tends to focus on the bass, it is the biggest presence on the song and it rumbles like an earthquake.  The song is a six minute plus epic, one that stays with you long after it has finished.  "Choco Plumbing" is next which once again has Dale Crover on drums, but he and King Buzzo are joined by Jared Warren & Coady Willis on bass & drums respectively.  The Big Business/Melvins men do not really need any introduction and they fit seamlessly back into the band and it make me yearn for another album from this version of the band.  It is a powerhouse of a song, mixing the general Melvins noise with something extra that only tends to appear when these men are in the same room with their last full release coming in the form of 'The Bulls & The Bees EP'.  This song just has a groove that sticks in your mind and will not let go, it is definitely one of the best songs on this album and one that makes me want more for this version of The Melvins.  The next song is Beer Hippie which see Dale Crover move over to the bass guitar and has Mike Dillard on drums (who was the original drummer of the Melvins), this song was originally released on the 'Beer Hippy EP' (all of the songs are included on this album).  It is a heavy song, back on the sludge trip with a vengeance and it sounds as if they are dropping bombs all over the place, it moves with such an assured and slow pace that you are hypnotized and you do not want to get out of the way of the music landslide that is coming towards you.  Fourth track "I Want to Tell You" (a cover of the Beatles song from the album 'Revolver') changes the mood once more and the music feels as if it could have come from a Monkees record, with Dale Crover back on drums and Mr Steven McDonald back on bass.  Now the Monkees remark is not an insult, it is actually a compliment (the Monkees at one point are alleged to have a bigger than The Beatles in the USA) as they have made a song that sounds so innocent, with a joyful step in the mix (even though it is steeped in Alternative Metal) that it could not fail to bring a ray of sunshine to the world.  Every time it is on, I start grinning from ear to ear and it just makes the world a better place for existing. 

The fifth track is called "Captain Come Down" is the next song, joining Sir Buzzo & Crover on bass is Jeff Pinkus from the Alternative Metal band Butthole Surfers who appeared on the Melvins album 'Hold It In' (our review cleverly linked here).  It was a union that produced a fantastic album as they were joined by fellow Butthole Surfer Paul Leary, this song harks back to an early sound of the Melvins, bass heavy, tone like tomb and it sounds heavy as fuck.  I mean this is a song that sounds much better loud, we are talking teeth rattling level and it is furious, feral and it does not sound as if it could ever be tamed.  "Hideous Woman" is back to the Buzzo/Crover/McDonald combo, with a sharp, tight and punk sound added to their particular brand of cool-aid and it sounds mighty.  It is a little loose in some places and this added to the mystic of the band as they might sound as if it might fall apart, but you know for sure that it is a tight as a miser's wallet and it will be as hard a diamond.  It is probably my least favourite on here, but it is still a good song - when your least favourite is a good song, you know you are on to a winner.  The next song "Shaving Cream" (a cover of a comedy song) see Mr Crover back on the bass and Mike Dillard back on the drums, with a song that is so silly and offensive that it cannot help but make you smile like a village idiot.  They are all fucked up with a tribal beat, an oompah section and a wicked sense of humour that makes this band such an interest creature.  Sometimes you need something like this in the mix to lighten the mood, wonderfully silly.  The eighth song is called "Planet Destructo" which feature Trevor Dunn from Mr. Bungle on bass with Messrs Buzzo & Crover, which completely changes the tone once again with a little bit of double bass coming into the album.  Starting as an almost classic rock song (almost), it sounds like it was going to just drift by me and it would have been ok as not every track can be a winner.  But then they do the normal Melvins thing, they did the unexpected and I am always wondered why I am surprised when they do this.  They change it into a little blues/jazz number near the end, very loose and focusing once more on the bass as he is allowed to go free and explorer the environment; it is this section that is most interesting as the band just follow wherever the bass is heading and it is a glorious noise.  I think this one would be my surprise of the album and it is glorious.

"War Pussy" is another Buzzo/Crover/McDonald number which has a steady alternative rock/80's rock sound, it is probably the weakest of the songs by this version of the band yet it does have a certain charm about it.  It is a strange number which keeps the energy going in the right direction and the band sounds tight as a nut on here.  A decent, if unspectacular number on this one.  The tenth track on this album features Krist Novoselic of Flipper/Nirvana/Sweet 75 fame on bass & accordion with King Buzzo and Dale Crover, the track is called "Maybe I Am Amused" and it is (to say the least) the strangest song on the album and that is after "Shaving Cream".  The accordion gives it an odd feeling from the start, but not an unpleasant one.  It has an old school rock-a-billy feeling to the music, it is one that hooks into your brain and refuses to leave (or pay rent either) as it smashes its way through your soul and takes root.  The penultimate two songs of this album are played by the combo of King Buzzo, Dale Crover and Mike Dillard and the first of the two tracks is called "Phyllis Dillard".  This one is a slow sludge number, one which actually has a little bit of a Kiss vibe to the pace of the song as it feels like it the classic rock end of the band has been added to the mix.  It is a hard song that has a lot of feedback as well, but at the heart is an honest rock number and it is one of the best of the album.  Ending the album is "Take Me Out to The Ball Game" (which is a popular song in North America for baseball fans) which starts with a slow synth section that sounds as if it could have been played at a baseball game, then the band join in singing about going to the game.  As a man who has never seen a baseball game (never really caught on in the UK, if I ever go to America I promise to see one), it is not a sentiment I understand.  But I understand the music here, it is a strange version and it makes so much sense being at the end of the album - a strange number to end a Melvins album, business as usual.

This is a fun release, special guests (or future/past members - who knows with these guys), twelve songs which never follow the same pattern and a smile that does not leave your face for love or money.  It is a good compilation of two EP's, a song from a split release and some other numbers.  Because the best percentage of these numbers are available on other formats, it lost half a mark but that is only because I am looking for a fault where there is none.  It is a good album and one that I would return to again and again.  Is it a new 'Houdini'?  I will be honest that it good, but not that good - however, there are a lot more Melvins albums to go through and they going to probably release another few in the next year or so.  But I recommend this one just for the fact it has made me smile like a Cheshire cat, more Melvins please....

8.5 out of ten - Oh, now you have my attention and maybe my money, time and heart

Top track -Choco Plumbing

You can purchase Basses Loaded on Amazon here.

You can visit the Melvins website here.

You can purchase Basses Loaded from the Melvins section of the Ipecac Records Bandcamp Page here.

You can follow the activities of the Melvins on Facebook here.

You can stream Basses Loaded on Spotify here

You can stream Basses Loaded on Deezer here.

You can stream Basses Loaded on Tidal here.

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