Release Date: Oct 14, 2014
Record label: Ipecac
No matter what’s going on in the world, the Melvins can always be relied upon to come up with the goods regardless of which incarnation of the band happens to be operating at the time. In the past there’s been a sludge version, a full on punk version, a drone and feedback nightmare Melvins, a “Classic Rock” sound, and any number of other variations. Hold It In finds the band in fairly playful mood and with a line-up that is positively mouthwatering.
After 30-odd years, dozens of lineup changes and 96 billion releases, the Melvins don't even seem like a band. It's like the Melvins are more a lab for trying stuff (any kind of stuff) out, a weirdo alt-metal Xanadu. So, no surprise that ex-Butthole Surfers Paul Leary and JD Pinkus would find safe haven there. Hold It In has Pinkus's bass holding down the rhythm section with drummer Dale Crover, while Leary adds wailing sonic texture to King Buzzo's chug-a-lug riffs.
For as long as I can remember, The Melvins have been pegged as a sludge band, and for as long as I can remember, this classification has been nigh-on useless. Yeah, there’s no denying they began their career as vessels for hulking dirges like “Eye Flys,” “Charmicarmicat,” and “Boris,” and it’s similarly undeniable that their sound has a tendency to sink into opaque floods of grime and dirt, but to conclude from this that they’re a sludge or doom or — god forbid — grunge band is to give form undue priority over content when it comes to deciding what a band is actually doing with its music. Because if the lazy had actually bothered to listen beyond the filthy distortion and torpid guitar-abuse, they would’ve heard not a bunch of disaffected slackers or disconnected potheads, but a troupe of perverse and contrary weirdos who took delight in confounding the expectations of their audience and the increasingly trite rock scenes they’d grudgingly influenced.
It can be a little hard to reconcile one’s admiration for the Melvins – three decades old as a band – with the fact that they haven’t made a consistently great album since 2006’s ‘(A) Senile Animal’. They normally strike a few bullseyes per record though, and so it is with ‘Hold It In’, which finds stalwart Melvins Buzz Osborne and Dale Crover joined by Butthole Surfers members Paul Leary and JD Pinkus. Sometimes it’s poppier than textbook Melvins (‘I Get Along (Hollow Moon)’), sometimes noisier and more freeform (‘Barcelonian Horseshoe Pit’), but there’s ample helpings of the Pacific Northwestern weirdo-sludge that their fans adore them for, ‘Piss Pisstopherson’ and ‘Sesame Street Meat’ two finely-titled examples.
Continuing their ongoing string of lineup experiments, Melvins stalwarts Dale Crover and King Buzzo team up with Butthole Surfers' Paul Leary and J.D. Pinkus on Hold It In. With such a distinct sound, the band's various personnel changes often feel somewhat superfluous, offering a variation on their usual sound without altering things too far from the kind of sludgy goodness listeners have come to know and love.
The Melvins' 15-year run on Mike Patton's Ipecac label is one of the few modern equivalents to John Coltrane's immensely prolific output for Impulse! in the mid-1960s. Both labels provided a supportive structure that encouraged the artists to push their respective creative ambitions, sometimes resulting in multiple album releases each year, record sales be damned. Where this comparison falls apart a bit is that, unlike Coltrane's singular musical vision, the Melvins have tended to follow their muse down all manner of twisted rabbit holes.
Even after three decades of relentless touring and over twenty album cycles, Melvins laugh in the face of that thing some call a "break". Last year, Melvins celebrated their thirtieth anniversary as a band, and they released two records to mark the date: the covers album Everybody Loves Sausages and Tres Cabrones, which revived the band’s original 1983 lineup, including original drummer Mike Dillard (who had never appeared on a proper Melvins LP up until that point). Shortly thereafter, the band covered Butthole Surfers’ “Graveyard" while giving away free ice cream to a crowd of kids in Chicago’s Humboldt Park as part of the A.V.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. For a band who often seem to have the slacker tag thrown at them, it's quite astonishing to take a step back and actually realise the sheer scale of Melvins' work ethic. Granted, the lineup's hardly been static down the years, with all kinds of chopping and changing, but in some form or another, Melvins have now been touring and recording for in excess of thirty years, a milestone they marked last year with not one, but two releases.
To turn an ironic phrase, the thing that grunge outsiders Melvins and Butthole Surfers had most in common was that neither seemed to have anything in common with anybody. They were weirdos producing heavy music with a sardonic edge, occasionally at odds with their peers. So, to see the two permanent bastards at the helm of Melvins (guitarist/vocalist Buzz Osborne and drummer Dale Crover) usher two members of the Buttholes (guitarist Paul Leary and bassist J.D.