The Melvins – Hold It In

The problem which tends to spring up whenever two bands team up and pool their creative energy for an album is that neither band wants to be outshone and be seen as “the group who bent to [insert the name of other contributing act here].” It’s not exactly an ego trip, just that nobody wants to be left in the background; everybody wants to be the part of the team that listeners remember and, in trying to BE that, many “co-operative” albums end up sounding uneven and muddled.

With that knowledge in hand, many people might assume that the chance of Butthole Surfers alumni Paul Leary and Jeff Pinkus teaming with Melvins powerhouses Buzz Osborne and Dale Crover and producing anything other than a colossal train-wreck of an album is pretty remote. How could they? Both bands have a fantastic track record of being great until they’re not – right?

Those who think that way clearly don’t know these bands well. While the stories of crazy behavior are well-known to fans of the Surfers and the Melvins, those fans also know how calculated and perfectly tempered that mania has always been; in both bands’ cases, if they ever made an ugly noise, it was intentional and designed to be where it appeared. The members of both bands are very intuitive; they’ve always been loose cannons but know how to work with others to reach a desired goal.

With THAT knowledge in hand, some of the wiser fans in both bands’ camps know that the results of Leary, Pinkus, Crover and Osborne teaming up to make an album can’t miss.

That knowledge is beautifully validated on listening to Hold It In – The Melvins’ twentieth full-length album and first to feature Leary and Pinkus – but even better is the fact that there is no waiting for the sound to fall into gear, because the band is there from the get-go. From the moment “Bride Of Crankenstein” hits listeners and opens the album, fans will recognize just exactly what they’re hearing, and it is good.

Right off, Leary’s trademark brand of turgid, Stratocaster-styled mayhem hits listeners flanked by Crover’s simple but propulsive drumming, Pinkus’ thick bass tone and a terrifying, loud and gnarly guitar sound from Osborne hits listeners and just levels them like the wall of pigfuck it is. There is no easy way to qualify the sound hyperbolically any better than that: it is huge, dangerous and awesome and, on top of it, Buzz Osborne stands like its commander driving it forward (and “Spinning ’round the wrong way”) into oblivion. The result is astounding; front to back, the song is only two minutes and forty-nine seconds long, but that’s all it takes for Crover, Leary, Pinkus and Osborne to pervert the senses of anyone who comes into contact with “Bride Of Crankenstein” – it is beautiful and hideous at the same time.

…And then, in what could only be called typical pigfucking, brain-buggering fashion (or what both the Surfers and Melvins have always done at their best), “You Can Make Me Wait” follows on “Crankenstein”’s heels perched on a completely different tack. Suddenly sporting very clean-toned guitars, Vocodered vocals and a meticulously tidy rhythm section, it would be easy to assume that the song wasn’t even recorded by the same people – if the band weren’t half-populated by Butthole Surfers, who have always had a habit of breaking strides and rhythms on records just to fuck with people. In that way, the coupling of “Bride Of Crankenstein” and “You Can Make Me Wait” is perfect in its total lack of interest in trying to maintain a consistent authorial voice.

The stylistic stretching and obvious desire to confound their audience endures as “Brass Cupcake” plays like a classically composed and performed rock song until it’s touched/tainted by some added and hard-panned howling for some weird flavor and “Barcelonian Horseshoe Pit” switches gears again and gets a little transcendental in its mellow, atmospheric compositional style before “Onions Make The Milk Taste Bad” rounds back to the band’s metallic, pigfuck base to begin the whole arc again complete with an even better Leary-sung rock track (“Eyes On You”), an even darker and terrifying dirgy metal track (“Sesame Street Meat”) and a shockingly limber, speedy rave-up (“Nine Yards”) before running off the map with a drugged out country song called “I Get Along,” which laughs in the face of Desert Rock and shows those guys from the Palm Desert how to get REALLY twisted.

All the way along, no single track really stands out as being an obvious “Melvins” outtake re-purposed for this project and none of them really sound like songs which got left on the Buttholes’ cutting room floor either. There are elements of both bands in each song, and they’re beautifully melded together to make a result which could not exist if any of the players involved weren’t present. THAT is why Hold It In ranks as the best co-operative record released in years.

But what happens now? This album is great, but those who hear it will be aching to know what happens next: is Hold It In the beginning of a new turn which sees Leary and Pinkus joining Crover and Osborne for more albums? Is this just going to be a one-off recording and then the group will go its separate ways? No notice has been given, but the results on Hold It Is speak for themselves; this musical co-op is an inspired one and would find listeners clamoring for more if they choose to continue.

(Ipecac Recordings)


Bill Adams is Editor-in-Chief of Ground Control Mag.