June 19, 2024

Melvins – ‘Tarantula Heart’ – “startling but familiar and always heavier than you can imagine”

IPECAC RECORDINGS – 19th April 2024

I’ve always felt like a late-comer to The Melvins, joining them at their insanely sludgey Maggot / Bootlicker / Crybaby triptych in 2000, by which time they’d been around for seventeen years. Here we are, twenty-four years and sixteen studio albums later – the only common factor, Buzz Osbourne, with Dale Crover a very near constant presence. Enormously influential in the Seattle sound, they have an iconic status for consistency – they change but are always themselves – and the annual tour to somewhere local is something to look forward to. King Buzzo with his Shock-Headed Peter hair and irritated face, an immoveable presence on stage alongside Dale Crover’s tightly focussed rhythms.

This album sees the trio bulked up to a fivesome for a slab of noise. With a twenty-minute, side-long track, ‘Pain Equals Funny’, this is different to what has come before. The epic piece sees lots of jamming, instruments stripping down to individual voices, the beat shifting and dropping out, spacey improvisation, side-trips, all within the core heavy, heavy Melvins sound of blistering riffs and intense drums. Buzz says it started with some riffs, explored with Ray Mayorga from Ministry alongside Dale, then expanded into new music by Buzz. The double-drum attack gives a magnetic inertia to the piece and forms the foundation for all the tracks here, with the music being written by Buzz to fit. It breathes new air into the sound while staying with the crunching intensity of the band. The addition of Gary Chester meant there were two guitars, making for new textures alongside the bone-breaking riffs we are used to.

After the mind-twisting psych of ‘Pain’, ‘Working The Ditch’ is one of the heaviest things the band have recorded and a fine place to start and experience ‘typical’ Melvins, if there can be such a thing. Or is She’s Got Weird Arms’ typical? The vocal style and melody line is familiar from other albums but the double drum interplay is new. ‘Allergic to Food’ is the second single from the set and atypically speedy with rushing drum fills and hurtling guitars in a spiky rush of adrenalin. ‘Smiler’ closes the set with the sort of sound Melvins fans like but the double drum onslaught makes it feel double speed and the guitars feel as heavy as they ever have – crunching riffs with soling guitar lines weaving in and out.

This is what The Melvins do – same as they always do – startling but familiar and always heavier than you can imagine. Play it loud.


Melvins – Live In Leeds 2023 – “celebrate the unrelenting wall of sound”

The Melvins – Tearing the walls off at The Brudenell, Leeds

Melvins – “WORKING WITH GOD” – Alternately hilarious and bone-breakingly heavy



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