We go waaaaaay back, me and these here good ol’ Melvins boys, but not half as far back as the lineup on Tres Cabrones does: all the way back to 1983, in fact, with a lineup that is “as close we’re willing to get to the 1983 lineup”, to quote mainman and hairfarmer of legend Buzz Osborne.
With original drummer Mike Dillard back behind the kit, usual drumgod Dale Crover sits in for missing link Dan Lukin on bass. Crover is, of course, no stranger to stringed instruments, having fronted his own band Altamont across a handful of releases a few years back as guitarist and vocalist, and more than adequately fills the bass shoes with gusto, verve and much aplomb. Buzz is, well, Buzz – why change perfection?
Now, as something of a preamble to enthusiastically frothing over Tres Cabrones, I’m gonna espouse what may well be an unpopular view and say that whilst the four piece Melvins roster that has been in operation since the departure of last ‘permanent’ bassist Kevin Rutmanis in 2006 has been perhaps the best live incarnation of the band that I have ever seen, on record they made little to no impression on me – I am genuinely hard pressed to remember more than one or two riffs or vocal lines from any of the three studio albums that the foursome has made together – so I was over the bloody moon to hear my first taste of this Melvins 1983 lineup – via last years CDEP taster – and hear what is, to my jaded ears, a total return to form for Buzzo and Dale.
I’m of the opinion that Tres Cabrones – ‘three assholes’ in Spanish, fact-fans – is the most solid recording that the Melvins have made since 2004’s Pigs Of The Roman Empire collaboration with Lustmord and stylistically harkens back to the decidedly more rockist moves of 1999’s The Maggot.
It helps, naturally, that both of those recordings rank highly amongst my favourite Melvins records, but I’m sure (some of) you know where I’m coming from, right kids?
Tres Cabrones is, first and foremost, a rock album, with very little in the way of wilful experimentation. Admittedly, whilst it’s chock full of that sardonic Melvins humour that we all know and love, there are moments of out and out ridiculousness, but, silliness aside, there’s no real flab on these bones. Out of the twelve tracks present – of which two are covers – the lions share will rock your goddamn faces off.
First out of the gate, ‘Dr Mule’ harkens back to Hostile Ambient Takeover – a stripped-down catchy rocker with needling leads and occasional Stylophone from Buzz – and ends with amusingly out of time handclaps and a very Crover-esque drum-break, ‘City Dump’ is lumbering and gnarly and very reminiscent of The Maggot, boasting as it does a KILLER central riff and plenty of ‘tude in the vocal department, and ‘American Cow’ takes the hypno-drone aspect of Pigs Of The Roman Empire and welds it to a wonderfully snotty vocal line and a grrrrreat chorus that, again, harkens back to the late nineties Maggot/Bootlicker/Crybaby trilogy.
The incredibly silly ‘Tie My Pecker To A Tree’ is up next, a hillbilly hoe-down replete with rhythmic spittin’ sounds and naughty rhymes that is over in a trice, followed by ‘Dogs And Cattle Prods’, containing another winning vocal line, drenched in a reverberating watery effect, and kinda in a similar vein to Houdini’s ‘Set Me Straight’ aside from a deliciously bluesy boogie fade-out, then straight up old-school Melvins grinding rocker ‘Psychodelic Haze’ and into more giggling silliness with ’99 Bottles Of Beer’ – yes, it is that song – a drum-led fuck around with a Pythonesque “BEER BEER BEER BEER BEER BEER BEER!” chant that is, once again, dispensed with quickly.
Into the final stretch and we have the odd and slightly creepy ‘I Told You I Was Crazy’ , a track that is somehow like the unholy offspring of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ ‘I Put A Spell On You’ and a malfunctioning Dalek, followed by another standard Melvins chugger ‘Stump Farmer’, swiftly followed by the final bit of silliness ‘You’re In The Army Now’, that takes a call-and-response military marching shuffle and adds ludicrous lyrics and daft noises to make it, well, very very silly, leaving the final two tracks, both covers, ‘Walters Lips’, originally by late seventies/early eighties San Franciscans The Lewd, and ‘Stick ‘Em Up Bitch’, originally by infamous SF weirdniks Pop-O-Pies – both propulsive punk rockers, delivered in similar fashion to the Melvins version of The Wipers ‘Youth Of America’.
So there you have it. Easily the best Melvins album in ages. In my opinion.
Scribed by: Paul Robertson