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Melvins | ‘Basses Loaded’ & ‘Three Men And A Baby’

The wacky Melvins steam train comes running into town again.

I can’t deny it, seeing them in the Black Box in 2007 was a pivotal moment for me.

That night, they were heavy, humorous and genuinely inventive. The two drummer set up, the guitar tone. Everything about them was immense.

However, they have spent the next decade undoing all of that by releasing a series of sub standard albums (five) and one good LP (which was a covers LP).

Having reviewed 2013’s ‘Tres Carbones’ and Buzz’s solo effort, I swore I’d never review another record by them.

They were just taking the piss.

On top of that, ‘Three Men and a Baby’ (which had been recorded in 1999) was finally released. Now, because of when it was recorded, I took a chance and bought it.

One tells a sad tale of a once great band going down the toilet, while another is utterly brilliant.

The schizophrenic nature of the Melvins continues unabated.

Basses Loaded

The LP beings with ‘The Decay of Lying’ (which has Steve McDonald from hardcore inspired power poppers Redd Kross and generic hardcore “supergroup” OFF!). It’s a six minute dirge which has little in the way of excitement, groove or songwriting.

This is going to be a long record…..

Hang on. ‘Choco Plumbing’ is a hell of a lot better. A decent groove. Passable riff. And err… that’s it really. For the rest of the album. Oh, they do ‘Take Me Out to the Ball Game.’ Yes.

If you thought ‘Tres Carbones’ was bad, this one will amaze you at how deathly dull it is. I’ve forced myself to play it three times for the purposes of this review and each time I struggle to pay attention to it.

There is no imagination here whatsoever. Buzz is seemingly content to just chug away, Dale doesn’t impose himself on the listener and the variety of bassists do nothing to liven proceedings.

I have no hesitation in saying that this record epitomises everything that’s wrong with “alternative” music today: the cult of personality (“wow, a new Melvins album. It’ll be cool, have they ever made a shit record”), the fetishisation of physical formats (most of these tracks have been previously released in limited edition vinyl over the past year and a half) and the sheer monotony of the song writing.

Stop giving them money for crap. They’ll get the message.

1.4 / 5

Three Men and a Baby

Right, let’s move onto a record that’ll make you remember what was so good about this band in the first place.

The bulk of this was recorded in 1999 and then (for reasons that seem to have been forgotten) shelved. Perhaps recording and releasing ‘The Maggot’ and ‘The Bootlicker’ in the same time period took it’s toll on them. Often regarded as a creative highlight, I was intrigued to hear this release.

Within two seconds of the opening song ‘Chicken n Dump’, you know this will be a classic Melvins album. Just listen to that guitar tone. It’s gorgeous. And with Mike Kunka from the underrated godheadSilo helping out on vocals and bass, it’s clear his contribution made Buzz and Dale step their game up.

If ‘Limited Teeth’ had ended up on ‘Basses Loaded’, it would be an utter plodder, devoid of excitement. On here, it’s an invigorating piece of rock with some killer drum fills and a neat lead break. The chorus of “I don’t like your kids/But you do” shows off the warped humour that’s been a Melvins trademark since 1983.

‘Read the Label (It’s Chili)’ has a bass line played through a flange pedal. The little end notes on the lower strings sound gorgeous, and never changes for the vast majority of the song. Big, big favourite of mine.

The big talking point is the cover of Public Image Ltd’s ‘Annalisa’, and for good reason: it’s a brilliant cover. Although a pretty straight version, the twin vocals match John Lydon’s original for utter derangement.

It’s safe to say that this is a brilliant LP. A career highlight. Up there with ‘(A) Senile Animal’, ‘Gluey Porch Treatment’ and ‘Pigs of the Roman Empire.’ I don’t care to know why we’re only hearing this now. I’m glad I’ve heard it.

3.9 / 5

Mediocre Modus Operandi

So, the decline of the band continues. It really has got to the stage where they’ll record anything and stick it out as a limited 7′ through Amphetamine Reptile Records, knowing that their fan base will lap it up.

I suppose it’s to be expected: they don’t sell millions of records so they have to tour constantly. And, by sticking records out, they justify going on tour.

But fuck me with a broomstick, there was a time when they made a fucking effort with their records. Even The Fall (their nearest peers in terms of output) don’t take the piss the way Buzz and co do. I can’t imagine Mark E. Smith recording football chants and putting it out.

Having said that, if they stick out records like ‘Three Men and a Baby’ more often, then I’d be behind them all the way. Unfortunately, those days are now few and far between.

Mediocrity seems to be the modus operandi for the band nowadays.

Christopher Owens ::: 04/06/16

One Comment
  1. Nails why I never persisted with them, they’re just too inconsistent.

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