November , 2013
Review by William Meckfessel
Label: Ipecac Records
Never fully making it into the mainstream, despite being heavily promoted by Kurt Cobain (who had also bombed an audition to join them in his teens), the Melvins have made, and earned, their mark with being one of the main influences on grunge music. The Melvins' new release on Ipecac Records is a strong mix of their distinct sound, known as sludge metal, but aren't afraid to creatively deviate, resulting in what they then named Tres Cabrones.
Within the first few songs, like "City Dump," or "American Cow," they are already implementing the familiar grinding and distorted guitars riffs on top of slow pounding drum tempos. Over King Buzzo's loud and bold droning voice, this creates a sound where head banging just doesn't seem to be good enough. Though I'm not sure how far this style can be taken artistically, as this is the same type of sound they've had basically since their formation. The 9-minute epic "Dogs and Cattle Prods," sounds like a something they would have written 20 years ago.
But just as I was beginning to think how the record was a little stale, they launched some fast, Iggy Pop style songs, bringing a new tone to the CD. "Walter's Lips," a song about former news anchor Walter Cronkite, their version of "99 Bottles of Beer," or the closing chant to the final song of the album, "Stick ‘Em Up Bitch," seem almost like songs one could've expected to hear on a good night at CBGB. With the addition of these punk tunes, it relieves the album of some excess intensity, creating an overall lighter feel, but still without undermining the heaviness of the album.
Too often, however, it sounded like Alice Cooper songs, such as the opener, "Doctor Mule," complete with creepy organs and all. This is exactly where the biggest fault I can find with this record. That ultimately sounds like Cooper or Iggy, more so than just as a subtle influence, but a dominating force. One of the best things about the Melvins was their obvious, defiant, and shocking difference to mainstream rock music, seemingly just shy of a total rejection of the rock world. Irony and distortion ruled, but more than one song from Tres Cabrones almost makes me wonder how much they've changed and if my opinions of them were outdated. But, songs like "Tie My Pecker to a Tree," assures me that they are in fact still in there.
By the end of Tres Cabrones I wanted to listen to the rest of my Melvins collection. It channels the original sludge metal and also lets a little of their punk side shine through. Yet for any fan, who also happens to be a purist, it may feel corrupted by it's transparent inspirations. Though, it seems clear that these guys are still having fun making music after all this time. And I hope they never lose that, because even though this album isn't exactly their best, part of me can't wait for the next one.