REVIEW: THE MELVINS – “Basses Loaded”
Stoner rock legends The Melvins pump out a ton of music, but no matter how much material they crank out or how many lineup changes occur, King Buzzo and Dale Crover never cease to amaze me. Formed in the 80s, with a couple of dozen albums currently under their belt, the boys are back with ‘Basses Loaded’ — and they aren’t kidding! There are no less than six different bassists on this album, most of who have appeared on at least one previous Melvins release.
‘Basses Loaded’ opens up with one of my favourite tracks of the album, “The Decay of Lying,” and bass player number one, Steve McDonald. Slow and sludgy, it possesses that classic 90s Melvins sound, which immediately gave me high hopes for the songs to come. And I wasn’t disappointed. The following track, “Choco Plumbing,” provides a nice contrast, with its light and catchy melodies. Not to mention the first and last couple of bars made up of an interesting, weird groove. This one features bassist Jared Warren, who is no stranger to Melvins fans, having appeared on ‘(A) Senile Animal,’ ‘Nude with Boots’, and ‘The Bride Screamed Murder,’ as well as ‘The Bulls and the Bees’ EP.
“Beer Hippie” is the first of four tracks that feature drummer Dale Crover on bass, and for fans who are surprised by this news, his bass talents also appeared on 2013’s ‘Tres Cabrones’ when original drummer Mike Dillard returned. Following that, McDonald is back for a decent rendition of The Beatles’ “I Want to Tell You”. Then there’s the dirty sludge of “Captain Come Down” with Jeff Pinkus of Butthole Surfers, who was also the bassist on ‘Hold It In’.
The remaining two McDonald tracks really stand out to me, the first being “Hideous Woman”. Not only is it faster and heavier, but the vocals make it my absolute favourite song on the album. The second is “War Pussy,” which is another one of the filthier tracks, but with some eerie background harmonies, and quality shredding by King Buzzo. Also worthy of note is “Planet Destructo,” going from soft to jazzy half way through, and featuring Trevor Dunn (Fantômas, Mr. Bungle) on stand-up bass. The bass solo in particular is a highlight for me, with Crover showcasing some great percussive dynamics for backbone.
If you’ve been counting, you’ll notice that five of the six bass players have been mentioned thus far, so who could the final guest spot go to? Nirvana’s Krist Novoselic, on the accordion-heavy “Maybe I Am Amused”, which paints the image of square dancing in a barn. Of course, that isn’t even the most humorous song on ‘Basses Loaded’. Strangely, yet unsurprisingly, there is a short cover of a goofy 1940s song, “Shaving Cream” — as well as the album closer, “Take Me out to the Ball Game” — both with Crover on bass.
Six bassists, twelve tracks, three covers, and the usual endless supply of musically sound hilarity, what else would you expect from a Melvins album? Buzzo’s guitars and vocals are fantastic as ever, filled with gritty and memorable melodies. ‘Basses Loaded’ encompasses classic Melvins aspects, plus the variety that comes with having so many talented musicians on board. My only complaint would be that the option of featuring multiple bassists on the same track was staring them in the face, but not acted upon. However, it’s the Melvins, and they do whatever they want, especially on a label as open and wonderful as Ipecac. These guys are always spot on, and I look forward to their next release — which, judging by their record, should be any day now.