Melvins – Hold It In

A disturbing thing happens whenever I purchase an album by the Melvins online. As soon as the deal is done, I get a list of “similar artists you might enjoy” or some such. Inevitably, Primus, Tool, and at least one of the many projects helmed by Mike Patton are among the suggested artists.

So why am I so disturbed by this? I’m disturbed because Tool, Primus, Mike Patton and their ilk make pretentious, self-consciously eclectic and, ahem, quirky music for nerds who think that having watched The Matrix 25 times makes them intellectuals. On the musical map, Primus is just a millimeter away from “Weird Al” Yankovic; Tool is wedged in somewhere between Kansas, Bad Religion and Rush; and Mike Patton – well, he’s just too damned quirky for maps.

I’ve always loved the Melvins. But whenever I listen to the band, I am nagged by a voice of doubt asking, “Are you one of them?”

The Melvins have released millions of records – well, 24 studio albums and umpteen EP’s, singles, splits and live recordings. So it’s best to think of the Melvins’ canon as an evolving tapestry. Famous for doggedly following any musical path they damn well please, the band is credited with having created the sludge rock, stoner rock and doom genres – and they kinda/sorta did. Lyrically, The Melvins deliver a Rabelaisian buffet of the grotesque.

The Melvins are profoundly weird. But I don’t get the impression that Buzz Osborne and Dale Crover (the core Melvins around which a revolving-door cast of musicians orbit) sit down and say, “hey, let’s make something weird” when they write songs. The Melvins’ profound weirdness is weirdly profound – not a persona or affectation.

This brings us to the newly-minted Hold It In album. For this iteration, Osborn and Crover are aided and abetted by Jeff Pinkus and Paul Leary of the Butthole Surfers – a match made in heaven, right?

Well, maybe not so much. Sure, there’s a wee bit of the Melvins’ patented heaviosity on the album’s opener, “Bride of Crankenstein.” From there, the band experiments with pure pop that sounds like The Cars on a big dose of ELO (“You Can Make Me Wait’), a couple of tracks vaguely reminiscent of KISS (“Brass Cupcake” and “Piss Pisstopherson”) and the remainder sounds more-or-less like The Melvins covering major label era Butthole Surfers – as might be expected.

All told, Hold It In is just another album by the Melvins – which is to say that it’s a solid and interesting album. Sure, it’s cool. But this music would probably work better as background music on the Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim than as a soundtrack for David Cronenberg’s as-yet-unmade adaptation of Gargantua.

Hold It In