The Chicagoist will be launching later but in the meantime please enjoy our archives.

Rockin' Our Turntable: Melvins 'Hold It In'

By Casey Moffitt in Arts & Entertainment on Oct 14, 2014 4:10PM

photo credit Mackie Osborne

If you hear Melvins and Butthole Surfers uttered in the same breath, do your nuts start to tingle? Do your nipples perk up a little? If so, you probably should take a little time today to hit your local record store and pick up a copy of the Melvins' 16th studio effort Hold It In.

Buzz Osborne and Dale Crover have been working with a revolving cast during the past few years, and this time around they have enlisted the help of Paul Leary and JD Pinkus of the Butthole Surfers to cook up a twin guitar attack that succinctly encapsulates the 30-plus-year career the Melvins have built in a dozen new tunes.

What makes a new Melvins album is fun is you never know what, exactly, to expect when you give it a first spin. It could kick a lot of ass. It could try your patience. It could have you in stitches. It could be weird. Hold It In manages to do all of that.

2014.10.14.buttholemelvinscover.png The album blasts off with the riotous "Bride of Crankenstein," which basically sound like its title—a furious balls to the wall riff with a thick groove. It also is unusual as the lyrics are fairly straightforward. This is a song about a bad trip. In fact, there a few tunes on this album where the lyrics seem pretty obvious. "Eyes On You" is another example. It's an eerie track about the way we all are watched by everyone and everything. Is it creepy? Is it overly paranoid?

Whatever it is, it is odd to hear the Melvins spoon up such direct lyrics. We're so used to hearing loosely worded and obtuse phrases coming from Osborne's mouth. In the case of "Eyes On You," this approach makes sense as it is one of three tunes written by Leary. Don't fret. Osborne still tosses in a few head scratchers on this album. We might need a few more listens to get our head around "Onions Make the Milk Taste Bad."

However, allowing Leary to write some songs for the album, as well as giving Pinkus writing credits on the other nine songs, shows these guys weren't brought on board for their good looks. Osborne and Crover wanted to work with these guys on an album, rather than have them play the parts they're told. It probably helps keep the creative juices flowing and another Melvins album sound fresh. Leary adds a pop sensibility to the album on his tracks. Even on "You Can Make Me Wait," Leary sings through a Vocoder turned way up, evoking Neil Young's Trans. Its Melvins weird, yet it has a strong melody that goes against the Melvins grain. It's strange, but also oddly familiar, if not comfortable.

Of course Melvins get downright peculiar, if not annoying, on this album. "Barcelonian Horseshoe Pit" is a slow burn of jarring noise. "House of Gasoline" devolves into a wild mess of guitar noise and angular bass lines with a solid beat provided by Crover. We also get a good dose of the Melvins sense of humor we've come to expect. "Sesame Street Meat" might put a smile on your face until you hear the punishing riff that starts it off. "Piss Pisstofferson" is so obviously hilarious we wonder why we haven't been using it as our screen name for the last 15 years.

Hold It In is heavily guitar driven. We typically hear Crover play a much more prominent role on Melvins albums. That is not to say his performance on this album is diminished, nor his role. His drums are just a bit more subdued.

In short, Hold It In delivers a lot of what we've come to expect from the Melvins, perhaps unexpectedly so. But it ranks right up there with some of the band's best work, which is pretty remarkable when you consider how long the Melvins have been turning out records, and how quickly they continue to do it.