By Bill Adams
It might be a little late in the game to try and call what The Melvins have done on Tres Cabrones a mid-life crisis. The average age of the band’s members is around fifty – no one tries to call that mid-life with a straight face – but there’s no denying that they’re celebrating their history truly, proudly and wonderfully on their nineteenth album.
The short version of the story which powers Tres Cabrones goes like this: Melvins singer/guitarist Buzz Osborne recently reconnected with the band’s original drummer Mike Dillard and, after a little shuffling around (drummer Dale Crover occupies the bass seat here), started playing for old time’s sake. Rather than just rehashing thirty-year-old songs, Osborne took the opportunity to write a bunch of new ones for the reconstituted band to play. What listeners get on Tres Cabrones are the fruits of that labour and, whether by accident or design, they’re also offered a really cool look at the previously unseen history of this band they thought they knew so well.
Sounds interesting right? It is – but the best part is that The Melvins don’t take the easy-to-sell way through on this record. The temptation to devolve into serious and/or overwrought songwriting practices which would really just end up being throwaway tripe had to have been very real (left to their own devices, lots of bands would do it just to insinuate that they were THAT DAMNED GOOD – even BACK THEN), but the beauty of Tres Cabrones is that The Melvins try to capture the spirit of a young band with all the flaws which usually tend to go with that station intact. There is charming, lighthearted goofiness to be found here in Osborne’s over-animated vocals on songs like “I Told You I Was Crazy,” “Stick ‘Em Up Bitch” and “City Dump,” and it’s contrasted perfectly by the dark, sludgy guitar work he throws down (which is easily complemented by the Dillard/Crover rhythm section).
The lighthearted (and very high school band-esque) vibes continue as The Melvins amp up and overdrive a couple of Public Domain covers (“99 Bottles Of Beer,” “You’re In The Army Now” and “Tie My Pecker To A Tree”) and one song by The Lewd [a.k.a. The Seattle hardcore band from which guitarist Kurdt Vanderhoof sprang to join Metal Church – ed] to round out the set but, again, the value of those songs proves to be overwhelming; assembled as t is, Tres Cabrones begins to play increasingly like the best demo album ever assembled by an up-and-coming band – the kind fans treasure because copies are limited – but made even better by the fact that Osborne and Crover’s experience together ensures that the original songs are tight and excellent.
While there’s no question that Tres Cabrones is an unlikely success, there’s no question that it absolutely IS a success; anyone who hears the album will know it. Here, The Melvins have found a fountain of youth in that they immediately sound spontaneously younger in these twelve tracks, but their path has not been reset because all the lessons they’ve learned in the last thirty years are apparent in listening too. Again, it might seem unlikely but, with their nineteenth album, The Melvins remove all doubt that they’re the most creatively virile band of their vintage.
Bill Adams is editor-in-chief of groundcontrolmag.com.