Words by Russell Carstens
Aberdeen, Washington’s Melvins continue their storybook of mind-bending metal with their latest release, Basses Loaded. The album features a rotating lineup of bassists, including Steve McDonald (Redd Kross), Krist Novoselic (Nirvana), Jeff Pinkus (Butthole Surfers), Trevor Dunn (Mr. Bungle/Fantomas), Jared Warren (Big Business). Original Melvin Dale Crover assumes bass duties in places as well.
As “The Decay of Lying” (Steve McDonald) demonstrates, Buzz Osbourne has a never-ending stock of riffs that are as puzzling as they are challenging, interesting and musical. With classic Melvins tension, the song builds … but ends in a restrained solo rather than an explosion. But rest assured, an onslaught of fuzz awaits …
The fun and anthemic highlight “Choco Plumbing” (Jared Warren) will have you wondering, “Is this a jingle for a bizarre company of the same name?” The doomy “Beer Hippie” (Dale Crover) sounds as if Dracula were giving you a candlelit tour of his castle, or maybe he left you to explore on your own, torch in hand. The guitar work of “Captain Come Down” (Jeff Pinkus) and thrashy time signature shift is nearly comparable to the sound of bones grinding. Osbourne’s vocals come from a house of mirrors on the funk-punk of “Hideous Woman” (Steve McDonald). He belts at and mocks you, daring you to turn the corner on the only song where the bass playing sticks out (on first impression, to be fair).
“Planet Distructo” (Trevor Dunn) is a pleasant, almost-mellow track that is just involved enough to not be considered an interlude—though its low key nature almost serves as one, as the buried vocals and jet-engine guitars give off the sensation of floating. “Maybe I Am Amused” (Krist Novoselic) sounds like the Butthole Surfers invited Smile-era Brian Wilson and his crew over for a jam. Almost too weird for the Melvins, but still a delight. Weaker tracks (“Shaving Cream” and “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”) are more comic relief than far-out metal.
Basses Loaded is simply the Melvins doing their thing: avoiding the predictable and making interesting, head-spinning heavy music that keeps listeners wonderstruck.
© June 3rd, 2016
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