Credited with aiding in the development of both grunge and sludge metal, The Melvin’s have been stalwarts of the music scene since their inception in 1983. Are they still relevant now? Have they even still got it? We take new album Pinkus Abortion Technician to task, and try to find out…
In a word, yes.
The band have influenced so many artists and bands since they first came growling onto the music that it’s hard not see elements of their work etched into the work of bands ranging from Soundgarden and Nirvana all the way through to Tool and Slipknot.
“Stop Moving to Florida” opens the *ahem* interestingly named album as a masterclass in sludge. It starts off a grungy power riff, showing a polished example of the genre before rapidly tumbling into a strange and sludgy hole of spoken word vocals from an archetypal ‘hick’ who’ll be moving to Florida, and everything he’ll be up to, all punctuated by brutal, heavy power chords that give the song the pace of swimming in treacle.
If you want a song that you can find material that shows The Melvin’s influence to both Soundgarden and Slipknot (as previously mentioned), look no further than “Don’t Forget to Breathe”. At nearly eight minutes long, there’s definitely room for both to find material.
The track is ominous, slow and dark throughout but contains enough complexity that you’d struggle to believe it was the work of only three men (four if you count one guest bassist on the album). It contains all the drama and anger that you’d expect to find pouring out of Slipknot’s Corey Taylor’s work, loaded with theatrical tones and thundering guitar chords; but it also contains the same restrained shouting vocals that the late Chris Cornell was known for. It’s a long listen, but certainly never dull – after over 35 years of playing, the band are honed and polished so that every off-kilter guitar solo feels perfectly placed, along with every strange squealing tone that spikes odd moments of the track.
Of course, as the band have been going for so long, and worn the hats of so many genres, “sludge metal” and “grunge” isn’t all you’ll expect to find across the album. For electro-acoustic and punk country, a genre this reviewer hadn’t actually envisaged before today – The Melvins have created “Flamboyant Duck”.
With a banjo taking the consistent backdrop of the track, with eerie tones and strange vocals duelling for focus on the track, the song conjures nightmarish country images that feel like a stoned version of the film Deliverance. Or at least right up until the heavy metal guitar at the end of the track leaves a blistering Black Sabbath style solo on the footnote of the song – just because.
Not content with just their own exhaustive/exhausting original metal – there’s a sludge cover of “I Want to Hold Your Hand”. Yes, from exactly who you think.
It’s certainly interesting to say the least. With sudden drops in time and rhythm, the band never give you the chance to get comfortable in the track and fall into something you know well. The end result is a track that feels more like Brechtian theatre than a cover of a well-known and loved song. This however, doesn’t necessarily make it a bad thing. Nothing on the album is easy listening. It’s complex, detailed and deceptively well engineered music across the album that belies the band’s literal decades of combined experience and prolific work.
All it points to is that the album is pure Marmite. I’ve had to play tracks from this album to a few people to make sure my analogy is correct but I got it right; there’s certainly a range of reactions – but not one fence sitter amongst them.
If you know The Melvin’s work already, or are at least intrigued by it now, why not book a demo with your local Richer Sounds to hear this record on a great hi-fi system?
Author: Steve, Chiswick store