On ‘Pinkus Abortion Technician’, Melvins reaffirm their hard-earned reputation as playful and unpredictable anarchists
You’ll have done well to keep up with The Melvins’ relentless pace over the past decade or so. Now on their seventh album in five years, even hardcore fans could be forgiven for having missed out on a release here or there. Quantity over quality? Well, Pinkus Abortion Technician’s eight tracks could neither confirm or deny that.
Melvins’ obsession with dualities continues unabated into 2018; following up last year’s double album and their previous experiments with dual drummers, Pinkus Abortion Technician features two bass players. Four string duties are given to both ongoing Melvins bassist Steven McDonald and also Jeff Pinkus of Butthole Surfers, who guests throughout the album.
In fact, Gibby Haynes’ band of psychedelic terrorists are referenced throughout, with a cover of Butthole Surfers’ Graveyard closing out the record. The album title is also an obvious nod towards the Texan noise punks’ 1987 album Locust Abortion Technician, which Pinkus performed on, and its opening track is a loose medley of the Butthole Surfers’ Moving To Florida with the James Gang’s Stop.
It’s a pleasingly lumbering, monstrous version of Graveyard, and a cover of The Beatles’ I Want To Hold Your Hand is also great fun. Guitarist and vocalist Buzz Osborne fires off extra riffs and added crunchy power chords, with the band augmenting the 60s pop source material with breakdowns sprouting from every other bar. Close followers of the Melvins’ work will know that King Buzzo is something of a Beatles aficionado, and the cover comes off as affectionate without being contrived, pouring new life into a classic but well-worn song without sounding deprecatory.
As for the novel approach of dueling bassists? Well, for the most part, it’s little more than that – a novelty; nothing that simply turning up the bass channel wouldn’t have achieved.
Pinkus Abortion Technician is like the Melvins’ career in microcosm; when they focus, knuckle down and nail a punchy track from beginning to end, it’s incredibly powerful stuff. Their leftfield asides don’t always work, but the band’s willingness to mess around and even entirely debase their template is also laudable. At times, this record really does hang together beautifully. Flamboyant Duck is a deliquescent drift, breaking into an instrumental wander of hazy banjos before clapping shut with a deliciously sludgy guitar riff that sets up the succinct, driving Break Bread.
However, at times Osborne and co. seem all too willing to down tools and do whatever amuses them. The album gets off on the wrong foot with the stop-start mangle of Stop Moving To Florida, which would have made a greater impression somewhere around the midway mark. Embrace The Rub is short and straight to the point, but its piano-focused mix just isn’t heavy enough to be satisfying. Don’t Forget To Breathe is a welcome hit of sludge, and sets up the bong-hitting first section of Flamboyant Duck, which makes the album’s core all the more rewarding. Then again, it’s a long journey to that centre.
A more focused selection of songs like the career highs of A Senile Animal or Nude With Boots would have been welcome, but I guess at this point we should simply be grateful for the sheer prolific nature of Melvin’s back catalogue. Not everything they do hits the mark, but you only miss the shots you don’t take, and Melvins are set to full auto.
For fans of: Big Business, Tad, Fantômas
Standout tracks: Graveyard, I Want To Hold Your Hand, Flamboyant Duck
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