Despite encapsulating the definition of “acquired taste” in music, the Melvins have had a rich and extremely influential career like few other acts in modern music. Their sludgy grooves, deceptively complex riffage, and monstrous guitar tones have influenced such modern metal luminaries as Tool, Earth, Boris, Eyehategod, and countless others.* Seventeen albums and almost twenty years since their inception, the outfit is still going strong with guitarist/singer/fro-bearer Buzz Osborne and perennial drumming powerhouse Dale Crover at its core. They’ve been joined in recent years by Jared Warren and Coady Willis of the similarly-minded sludge act Big Business, and taking on the Kylesa double-drummer setup has worked wonders for the Melvins – when your music is based around rhythm, it’s good to have as many things available to bang on as humanly possible. They’ve graced us this month with the free (!) five-song EP, The Bulls and the Bees, which does as good a job of being an accessible record for those unfamiliar with the band as it satisfies long-time fans eager for their next fix.
Kicking into full gear immediately with the sludgy stomp of “The War on Wisdom,” this EP showcases the boys at the top of their craft – it’s easy to see why they’ve been able to do what they’ve been doing so well, and for so long. Like any good Melvins tune, this one – along with the closer “National Hamster” – demonstrates subtly-shifting rhythms, catchy head-nodding riffs, and a sludgy guitar tone that still hasn’t been topped since 1983. The double-battery of Crover and Willis provides for a driving rhythm section that does a great job of carrying the tunes. Between these guys and Kylesa, I’m beginning to wonder why every other band doesn’t have two drummers! They excel on the slow lurch of “Friends Before Larry,” as well as the deliciously groovy “We Are Doomed” (probably my favorite cut on the EP). But it wouldn’t be a Melvins album without a spacious and sprawling droney song, and the melancholy string-aided “A Really Long Wait” more than satisfies in that regard. It’s almost hauntingly beautiful, proving that there’s more to the Melvins than their admittedly fuckawesome riffs.
As far as Melvins releases go, this is definitely a strong one. It doesn’t come close to the monstrous trudge of Bullhead, the infectious grooves of Houdini, or the oppressive drones of Lysol – but then again, what does? Those albums would probably be the ones I’d first recommend to anyone unfamiliar with the Melvins’ repertoire and understandably intimidated by their immense discography, but anyone curious should definitely take a look at this release to see what the masters of sludge are up to nowadays. The only problem I had with this release was that it was too short – after the end of “National Hamster,” I was all set to put on the next track only to find that there wasn’t one. It’s always better for a release to leave you wanting more rather than have you watching the clock, praying for the final track to end – once again, the Melvins prove themselves to be masters of their craft. And it’s free, so you really don’t have an excuse for not checking it out. What are you waiting for?
Album: The Bulls and the Bees
Label: Scion Audio/Visual
Release Date: March 14th, 2012
*Including a little band from Seattle called Narvana, I think they were called? They had this badass blond guy named Curt Kobaine, whatever happened to him?
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