Melvins – Basses Loaded (Ipecac Records, 03 June 2016)
Around here, we’ve talked pretty extensively about the Melvins. Mostly because since forming in Montesano, Washington about thirty-five years ago, the band has been a highly influential part of so many of the genres we love, even having a hand in forming and shaping several of those. Also there’s the fact that, with their ever-revolving line-ups, there are approximately ninety-seven Melvins releases (on average) each year. Being so prolific, it’s likely that they’ll have some stuff kind of flying under the radar, and today we’ll be looking at an album from last year that you may have missed. And then down in the comments you can find information about all their tour dates for the rest of the summer and beyond (and if you have the opportunity to see these guys, I really could not recommend it highly enough!)
Less a play on words than it is a playful nod to the long list of folks who’ve shared stages and/or recording studios with the band’s core of vocalist/guitarist Buzz Osborne and drummer Dale Crover, last summer’s Ipecac-released Basses Loaded features a smorgasbord of low-frequency players — the likes of which hadn’t been seen since Gov’t Mule‘s tribute to Allen Woody.
On this particular outing, the band roaster is rounded out by their frequent collaborators (and Big Business rhythm section), drummer Coady Willis and bassist Jared Warren, although Warren only appears on one of the tracks. Guest players throughout the rest of the album include Steven McDonald (Redd Kross) who is part of the band’s live line-up at the moment, along with Trevor Dunn (Mr. Bungle, Fantômas), Krist Novoselic (Nirvana), and JD Pinkus (Butthole Surfers), each of whom has previously worked with (the) Melvins in some capacity, at one time or another. Even drummer Crover gets in on the bass action in a few spots on this record.
One thing that’s become fairly evident over the bands long and varied career is that regardless of what supporting cast they work with, Melvins always sound like (the) Melvins. Having an album with revolving members from track to track only serves to accentuate this truism. Whether they play something mellow and chilled-out and minimal like “The Decay of Lying” (with McDonald) with its psychedelic atmosphere, or “Planet Distructo” (with Dunn) featuring a lengthy acid-jazz freakout partway through; or somewhat heavier material like the fuzzy hard-rock of “Choco Plumbing” (with Warren), the alt-rock-bordering-on-sludgy-noise-rock of “Beer Hippie” (with Crover), darker-toned, heavy stoner metal fare like “Captain Come Down” (with Pinkus); or something in between like the schiziophrenic “Hideous Woman,” spacey-fuzzy classic hard rock “War Pussy” (both with McDonald), psychedelic-flavored experimental grunge found in “Phyllis Dillard” (with Crover), and their hazy, spaced-out Beatles cover (“I Want to Tell You” with McDonald, which adds a wacky coda similar to the one found after “Helter Skelter”)–
And even when their wackier side shines through a bit, such as in the accordion-laden party rock of “Maybe I am Amused” (with Novoselic); their bizarre cover of the old novelty tune “Shaving Cream” (with Crover) where they turn the whole concept of the song on its head (the original version of the lyrics, found in numerous renditions from Dr. Demento‘s collections to the new version of The Gong Show, achieved a modicum of humor by substituting the song title for a naughtier word that would fit the rhyme scheme at the end of each verse; here the guys dispense with such silliness altogether); and finally a cover of the even older song “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” (also with Crover credited) with a faithful rendition of the classic song’s chorus, but with a backing track that resembles an 8-bit-digital rendition of the melody plus an old Wurlitzer band organ– it’s fairly safe to say that fans of the band will be fans of the material on this album, and vice versa.
Grab your copy of Basses Loaded right here. And again, seriously, go see these guys if they are anywhere near you. You will not regret it. The list of dates is down in the comment section.
* * * * * * *