Release Date: Nov 5, 2013
Record label: Ipecac
On Tres Cabrones, a musician who left a band after a one-year stint nearly 30 years ago reunites with the group, playing alongside the guy who replaced him and has been in the band ever since—not to mention marking the first time the former band member has ever appeared on one of the band’s formal full-lengths. Follow? That’s the story of Melvins drummer Mike Dillard, who, along with his replacement, Dale Crover—playing bass for the band for the first time—and founding member/guitarist Buzz Osbourne comprise the “tres cabrones” behind the latest Melvins record. It’s a full-on fiesta, with the band occasionally breaking away from Osbourne-written slabs, like “Dogs and Cattle Prods” and “American Cow,” to laugh and fart their way through traditional refrains such as “Tie My Pecker to a Tree” and “99 Bottles of Beer.
If the Melvins have made anything clear during their 30-year run, it's that they fearlessly follow their creative whims wherever those whims might take them. Over the last decade or so, this drive to pursue heavy weirdness in all its forms has seen them join forces with Big Business for a trio of inspired albums, team up with Mr. Bungle bassist Trevor Dunn for Freak Puke, and deliver an album of influential covers on Everybody Loves Sausages.
They’ll always be revered as sludgecore pioneers, but the Melvins’ desire to challenge their fanbase has intensified in recent years. Mainstays Buzz Osborne and Dale Crover recorded 2012’s Freak Puke as splinter group Melvins Lite, with Tomahawk bassist Trevor Dunn, while Everybody Loves Sausages – released a breathless six months back and reworking tracks from artists as disparate as Throbbing Gristle and Divine – terrorised the “covers album” concept to within an inch of its life. Housed in a fetching sleeve depicting a tethered goat, Tres Cabrones again strains against the artistic leash.
In that 2013 marks the 30th anniversary of the formation of the band who calls themselves the Melvins, one might wonder if their 19th album Tres Carbones would be a more serious offering from the now-stalwart metal band. It is true that Tres Carbones is something of a “throwback” for the band, in that this album marks the return of “original” drummer Mike Dillard (who previously appeared only in demos and bootlegs), with current drummer Dale Crover playing bass guitar. Further, out of the twelve songs on the album, nine tracks have been previously recorded and released by the band between the years of 1983 and 2013.
Toasting 30 years of surliness this year, the line-up of Pacific Northwestern sludge-rock absurdists the Melvins has rarely been fixed: if it’s founder member Buzz Osborne plus two grannies on drums, the Melvins it remains. The hook for ‘Tres Cabrones’ is the return of Mike Dillard, the band’s drummer in their embryonic teenage days who later backed Kurt Cobain in pre-Nirvana band Fecal Matter. The initial feeling that this album is destined to be one of their many jokey, disposable ventures dissipates slightly as Osborne’s near-peerless ability with a brain-alteringly great riff takes hold (‘Stump Farmer’ and ‘Walter’s Lips’ excel here).
Founding drummer Mike Dillard left the Melvins before the now-legendary band had released a single LP. Thirty years later, guitarist Buzz Osborne and drummer Dale Crover have brought Dillard back into the fold for Tres Cabrones, with Crover moving over to the bass (an instrument he had played as a teenager in Kurt Cobain’s pre-Nirvana band, Fecal Matter). Listening to the Melvins’ 22nd studio album, it’s as if it’s still 1983, both because the trio sounds as if they never left the garage and because of their adolescent zeal and sense of humor.
Thirty years into the Melvins’ defiant, uproarious musical career, the sludge rock band is able to get away with trying just about anything at this point. No experimental sonic detour or thematic excursion will be viewed as too weird or outlandish, for it’s simply the Melvins being the Melvins. Longtime fans have followed the group down every bizarre musical avenue, and the band has continually repaid their devotion by keeping things sinister and strange for three decades now.