Three Men And A Baby
Sub Pop Records
Here is a new (old) Melvins album – a previously unreleased, recently unearthed collaboration between the band (then Buzz, Dale Crover and bassist/vocalist Kevin Rutmanis) and godheadSilo bassist/vocalist Mike Kunka – hence the billing Mike & The Melvins.
The Melvins have, in recent years, been anything that Cover and Buzz want it to be – a quartet with two drummers, a trio, a duo, they called back their original drummer for an album as part of their 30th Anniversary celebrations and in that same year they recorded live at Third Man Records, released a covers record and another couple of albums. Experimentation, shifting line-ups and being very serious about goofing off – that’s just how you find the Melvins these days. But Mike & The Melvins was first recorded nearly 20 years ago – left dormant and then touched up and finally released. The stop-gap nature of this means it’s really just a curio for fans, but that could actually describe any release by the Melvins – especially these days.
They’re about to release a brand new album with a cast of guest bassists….
Meantime we have this. And this is pretty good – if not quite as urgent as some of the actual Melvins material recorded around the same time (The Maggot).
Actually it was around the time that this record was being recorded and shelved that I really got hooked on the Melvins, so for me there’s a connection, something interesting about hearing the band back when I first got on board with them.
And there are some great moments. The stop-start crunch-riff of Limited Teeth – yes, yes, just another Buzz riff, one of several hundred by now, but killer-good at any rate.
A punkishness drives Bummer Conversation and the weird and wonderful experimentation creeps in by Annalisa, something that makes sense when lined up with Hostile Ambient Takeover and the Lustmord-collaboration, Pigs of the Roman Empire. Those were the albums where the Melvins fully clicked for me, I went back to the earlier sludge only after. So hearing this feels like a crucial, formative step, as if Mike Kunka was part of the loosening up of the Melvins’ approach – whereby they began to seek out collaborators, asking not what they could do for them, but what the collaborators could bring to the Melvins.
A Dead Pile of Worthless Junk sounds like DC hardcore riding on grunge, Read The Label (It’s Chili) has a Primus-like edge to it, Dead Canaries has Crover pounding the fuck out of the drums in that explosive punk/metal way of his as Buzz doom-shrieks over it, and A Friend In Need Is A Friend You Don’t Need feels sophomoric yet somehow vital – again, another of describing great swathes of the Melvins’ work.
It’s the way Buzz recycles riffs from Led Zeppelin and Kiss and Deep Purple and, well, himself – and all at once (see: Lifestyle Hammer) that really delights though. Always.
Mike & The Melvins makes so much sense now and maybe it would not have – at all – at the time. Another part of the jigsaw that is the Melvins’ discography. Brutal and beautiful and weird and wonderful and hit and miss.
God they’re fantastic. And some of this is too.