Like a lottery machine with fifty balls bouncing around inside of it and only ten coming out for the nightly draw, The Melvins are masters of new combinations and endless variation. After more than thirty years of making records, they still find new ways of self-reinvention while not abandoning the template they developed from their first record; Motörhead they are not.
The core has always been the tandem of guitarist Buzz Osborne and drummer Dale Crover, augmented with a series of adjunct band members. Lately, Steve McDonald (Redd Kross, OFF!) has been anchoring the low end but for their latest record and supporting tour, Jeff Pinkus has also brought his bass to the mix. If that name sounds somewhat familiar, the title of the new record spells it out pretty clearly – Pinkus Abortion Technician.
Buzz has not been shy about stating how great of an inspiration Butthole Surfers were to his band, and in the context of great American bands with a strong talent for confounding the general public and they own fan base, these represent two of the finest. The first thing that was apparent is that they spent the right time dialing in their stage sound so it wasn’t just a muddy mess, and sound man John Hopkins deserves a special mention for solving that sonic problem with panache.
Despite the title, the new record only has a couple of Buttholes tunes on it, and live they delivered a slightly reworked “Moving To Florida,” which still remains the best song about bowling a perfect game, and McDonald got his turn via Redd Kross’ punchy “What They Say.” Creative choices in covers is a hallmark of Melvins shows and this tour would be no different. Classic rock was the theme, with on target of “I Wanna Hold Your Hand,” The James Gang’s “Stop” and especially The Stones mid-career highlight “Sway” benefiting from the crunch that the quartet provides as effortlessly as breathing in air.
Of course with dozens of their own records to choose from, they certainly didn’t just do classic rock karaoke and bona fide classics like “Let It All Be” and “Anaconda” pulverized. “The Bit” featured Crover standing over his kit, using his arms to adjust the bass levels between Pinkus and McDonald, and the crowd revved into a mosh pit frenzy when the familiar opening of “Honey Bucket” ripped through the air. Coming full circle, the night ended with a blistering, brooding reading of “Eyes Fly,” the lead track from their debut record which set it all in motion.
The Melvins have often had an in-house connection as tour support; witness Big Business pulling double duty, as well as Pinkus’ band Honky, and Porn, which included sound man Toshi Kasai. In a one degree of Melvins separation, Kasai’s produced the new record by All Souls, who were a welcome complement to the Melvins bill. Singer Guitarist Tony Aguilar and bass player Meg Castellanos have served as Melvins tour support prior with Totimoshi, and this time they’re joined by Erik Trammell on guitar and Tony Tornay, an absolute dynamo on drums. Tornay’s relentless floor tom pounding belied his muscular arms and he didn’t stop all night. The quartet had an unusual swing to their sound, somewhat grounded in between the seemingly incongruous poles of The James Gang and Gabriel-era Genesis. If you missed them this go-round, they’ll be back later this year, supporting a certain well known noise rock band.
Photo gallery of both bands here:
Created with flickr slideshow.