by Brian Manley
Melvins are that mountain of concrete that have existed as a jagged but comforting backdrop to the ogre that is noise and sludged-out rock for three and a half decades. The band has held court as Bowie did for some generations; I didn’t hear all of the later era Bowie albums, but I was happy knowing he was still out there. The Melvins’ hull chugs through so many riffs, warped experimentations and altered lineup states under such a long creaking chassis of records that the group can be fucking intimidating, but also such a joy to jump into like a skinny dip at a mudslide.
Since the early 21st century, after Melvins had already established themselves as immortal behemoths, the band seems to use each new album as an excuse to tweak and scuttle styles, lineups and sounds, resulting in a slew of collaborations. The latest record, Pinkus Abortion Technician, is no different: a slab inhabited by regulars King Buzzo and Dale Crover, with relatively new member Steven McDonald teaming on bass duties with Butthole Surfers’ Jeff Pinkus. It’s an idea that almost continues the use of a slew of guest bassists on 2016’s Basses Loaded.
To say the band’s music has gotten weirder is impossible; Melvins were birthed weird. My experience with modern Melvins is that they just seem more inclined to experiment with the songwriting and decision-making, and Pinkus doesn’t veer from that sling. The opening cut “Stop Moving to Florida” thickly begins with a cover of James Gang’s “Stop,” an oddball collision that made me think Buzzo had finally embraced his inner KISS desires of pop riffs and summer fun vocals, before the song swivels and bizarrely melds with the twisted dyed blues of Butthole Surfers’ “Moving to Florida.”
The album tends to nettle in these outposts of planted stomp blues and an almost lighter exploration of sounds, as banjos, acoustic guitars and steel drums act as placebos amongst the double-basses and strange falsettos. I swear, tunes like “Break Bread” and “Embrace the Rub” almost seem gleeful. I could see “Flamboyant Duck” and “Prenup Butter” being spun around a sunspot campfire under Medusa’s watch, each song eventually dwelling in its own whisked dawdle. The best moment for me comes in the form of the album’s exit with “Graveyard,” a noisy hound that drags itself with clomp and feedback through the door.
And yes, this album includes a cover of “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” Again, I think Melvins surfaced from the depths years ago and started giving less fucks about ventures into certain areas, and this cements that post in my stem. This is a song that the world most likely never ever needs to hear again, yet somehow they stomp the most overplayed pop rock hit in history into a happy plod with a vocal delivery that almost sounds excited and… I mean, am I tapping my toes to a Melvins album?
Pinkus Abortion Technician functions on a level as another notch in the Melvins’ career that doesn’t act as a gamechanger but more a reminder that the bringers of sludge can do whatever they want and if it isn’t submersing into a pit of heavy riffs, it’s still interesting. I expected the stack of McDonald and Pinkus to create a shattering low end rumble, but the band has created the only other thing a long-time listener can presuppose successfully with this band: something unexpected and strange.