Tuesday, September 4, 2012

(the) Melvins – ‘the bulls & the bees’ EP

Workhorse, freak-metal traffickers (the) Melvins can be depended on for two things. First off, they reliably churn out new full lengths and EPs annually or, at the very least, on a biennial basis. Secondly, they bring the weird—seemingly never satisfied to repeat themselves and fiercely opposed to indulging expectations. Well, at least up to the release of 2006’s excellent ‘(A) Senile Animal’. It’s not that ‘Nude with Boots’ and ‘The Bride Screamed Murder’ were necessarily bad albums, but not since the Melvins/Big Business amalgamation has the band retained such a familiar sound over the span of multiple releases.

Approaching ‘the bulls & the bees’ EP I would have been surprised if I wasn’t surprised. The first two tracks “The War on Wisdom” and “We are Doomed” certainly didn’t startle. I’ll be clear: these definitely aren’t bad tunes. In fact, they are probably the two greatest tracks that weren’t on ‘(A) Senile Animal’—which is a welcome return to sound after the classic rock indulgent ‘Nude with Boots’ and slightly uneven ‘The Bride Screamed Murder’. Dale Crover and Coady Willis don’t fail to pummel the listener with their twin drum attack—one of the highlights of latter day Melvins. Probably the biggest contributing factor to the Melvins’ current sound is the dual shared vocals of Buzz Osborne and bassist Jared Warren which is all over these first tracks.

“Friends Before Larry” brings some of the weird that made ‘Hostile Ambient Takeover’ such a rewarding trip. The wind wails, a muffled buzzsaw rips, and a tortured soul bellows before the drums kick in and the feedback squalls. The song is drenched in sinister synths that wash out and bury the vocals in the mix. It’s a noisy affair that marches too soon to its conclusion. Three songs deep and my mind is finally blown.

The synths die down and the wind continues to blow segueing into the film score appropriate “A Really Long Wait”. Tortured strings begin to cry out. For thirty seconds the song emanates the cinematic flair of Godspeed You! Black Emperor, but instead of a spoken word diatribe against the evils of capitalism and the post-industrial world hymnal vocals mournfully wail. The solemnity of “A Really Long Wait” is impressive as it may be the most emotionally wrought tune ever composed by the band.

The EP closer, “National Hamster”, rivals “Friends Before Larry” as the standout track due to some hook heavy lead guitar and Beatles-esque backing vocals which may sound out of place on a Melvins track, but they fit just right. It just goes to show that the band seemingly never fails to have a trick or two stuffed up their collective sleeves.

‘the bulls & the bees’ EP may not be the freak-out departure that a segment of fans have been wishing for, but it’s a solid effort and is a testament to the creativity and staying power of a band that is pushing 30 years of existence. Few acts, past or present, can make such a claim. Oh, did I mention this EP is free? Download it free from Scion Audio Visual.

Words: Steve Miller
(Originally published at Temple of Perdition)

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