ALBUM REVIEW: Melvins – ‘Working With God’

Words by Ezra La Vin {The Wretched Creatures}

The Melvins’ influence on rock is understated. Often referred to as the ‘Godfathers of Grunge’, they also had a massive impact on styles that would later become known as stoner rock and doom metal. Artists such as Nirvana, Soundgarden, Tool, Mike Patton, Boris, Helmet, Sleep, Neurosis, Mastodon, Eyehategod, High on Fire, Baroness, Isis and many others owe a lot to the path that was forged by the Melvins. When they emerged from Aberdeen, Washington in 1983 it was as if they had mashed together the dirge of Sabbath with the noisy chaotic sensibility of the Post-Punk bands around at the time. They were like no one else.

Several books could be written about the history and lore of the Melvins (or maybe just one really huge one I guess..). Their link with Nirvana has to be mentioned. A young drum tech called Kurt Cobain fell in love with the band and wanted to join, even auditioning as a bass player when given the chance; but he was so nervous that he failed to impress his heroes. Buzz was the friend that introduced Kurt to punk and taught him the handful of basic chords that he would use the rest of his career. Crover was Nirvana’s drummer in 1988 and worked on songs that would later appear on ‘Bleach’. Buzz would later suggest Dave Grohl as a replacement drummer for Nirvana when the Melvins relocated to San Francisco. In the early nineties when Nirvana blew up, major record labels started signing other bands that were part of that scene, trying to catch some of the same success. Melvins landed a deal with their first major label with Atlanta Records in 1993 and recorded ‘Houdini’, ‘Stoner Witch’ and ‘Stag’ with basically no creative control from the label at all. 

These three albums are often cited as their best and most influential by fans and other bands. Another album was recorded but Atlanta refused to release it due to its odd, experimental nature. ‘Prick’ was sneakily released on a small label instead with the band name in reversed mirror writing in order to avoid legal action from Atlanta who wouldn’t let them use their name to release it. They basically refused to write the breakthrough commercial hit the label desperately wanted and so they were released in ’97. Patton’s label Ipecac would later sign them and allow them to do whatever they wanted. Complete creative freedom is at the core of the Melvins‘ ethos. At the risk of alienating their fans they have been as eclectic as they have been prolific, releasing 28 studio albums in 38 years across multiple genres with varying line-ups. They refuse to make music for anyone but themselves. The Melvins do not give a fuck.

With that said, let’s dig into their latest album ‘Working With God’ featuring their ‘Melvins 1983‘ lineup of Buzz OsborneDale Crover and original drummer Mike Dillard. The trio’s previous release was the 2013 album, ‘Tres Cabrones’. 

Track List:

I Fuck Around
Negative No No
Bouncing Rick
Caddy Daddy
1 Brian, The Horse-Faced Goon
Brian, The Horse-Faced Goon
Boy Mike”1 Fuck You
Fuck You
The Great Good Place
Hot Fish”Hund
Good Night Sweetheart

Opening track I Fuck Around is a re-imagined cover of The Beach Boys‘ I Get Around, “It’s reflective of our 8th grade sense of humour, which we’ve never grown out of. We hope Brian Wilson doesn’t get mad.” Osborne explains. A joke song that is hilarious the first time you hear it, pretty funny the next few times but would probably start to drive you a bit crazy if you listened to it too many times (for example, if you had to review the album). But, like I said: The Melvins do not give a fuck. Negative No No is a solid track which features a dirty, hypnotic repeating riff and classic sounding Buzz vocals with noisy, experimental solos and bombastic percussion. It serves as a good vibe change to transition from the opening joke song into the two standout tracks of the album.

If you’re like me, you’ve been longing to hear the Melvins record something similar to their Atlanta Records era stuff. Something that makes you pull that stink face, bang your head and wonder if you should buy a flannel shirt. The wait is over my dear friends. The third and fourth tracks are vintage fucking Melvins!  A song about Osborne and Dillard’s junior high biology teacher, Bouncing Rick is frantic and demented with driving riffs and a tension filled vocal performance by Buzz. They were the one of the first bands to play really slowly; to put space between heavy chords and in Caddy Daddy the Melvins show how adept they are with their unique grunge/sludge sound. I love the vocal hook in the chorus “It’s morally superior!”  Best song on the album, and probably one of their best in a while. Listen to it.

Another joke song follows which is a jarring and ugly experience! Be warned. (Did I mention the Melvins do not give a fuck?) Brian, The Horse-Faced Goon  is a decent song, kind of jokey, kind of cool. Boy Mike is a speed metal tune with Motorhead style riffing and 1 Fuck You is another joke song done in a style similar to Weezer/Beach BoysThe Great Good Place features that distinctive repeating hypnotic riff thing again that the Melvins do so well. Listen to Hot Fish and tell me you can’t imagine Spinal Tap playing this song in an alternate universe! Not saying it’s bad, just saying! Hund is once again a taste of vintage era Melvins. As Larry David would say, “Pretty… pretty… pretty… pretty good.” We are serenaded at the album closer with Good Night Sweetheart, a barbershop quartet style valediction sung by all three members. ‘Working With God’ is good album. It goes some way to hint at the wide spectrum of styles this enigmatic band is capable of and further cements their legacy as rock royalty.

‘Working With God’ is out February 26th through Ipecac Recordings/Liberator Music.

Pre Order HERE

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With thanks to Liberator Music + Ipecac Recordings + Mushroom Group

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