I think we’ve seen around a few dozen Melvins albums pass by us, many underneath the radar, so you’re forgiven if you’ve lost count or it’s been a while since you’ve pondered, “I wonder what the Melvins are up to?” What they’re up to amounts to a winning streak, starting with 2006’s (A) Senile Animal and continuing with their most recent, Nude With Boots.
Stoner Witch placed the band in a precarious spot: it demonstrated to us that the Melvins were capable of some real genius when they wanted. That responsibility of following that reality was by all accounts too great to shoulder. They seemed to intentionally digress thereafter, releasing questionable forays into experimentation, an album “trilogy” that never really got of the ground, and a handful of live recordings that appealed to the faithful while suggesting to others that, perhaps, the band’s greatness had peaked.
What’s motivating the most recent creative surge seems to be the introduction of Big Business‘ rhythm section Jared Warren on bass and second (!) drummer Coady Willis. This line-up started with Animal and continues here with some intriguing results.
Longtime Melvins drummer Dale Crover is one of rock’s unsung heroes, and it’s curious why a decision was made to compliment his already monolithic style. Strangely enough, it works, with Crover and Willis playing off each other while occasionally working out patterns that pair up nicely with King Buzzo‘s always-reliable behemoth riffs.
These results happen immediately on Nude With Boots, with the first three songs (“The Kicking Machine,” “Billy Fish,” “Dog Island”) setting off a high stage of dirty guitar riffs and gut-punching skin attacks. I could’ve sworn that “Kicking Machine” was a rework of “Good Times Bad Times,” with just enough twists to keep Superhype publishing off their ass.
For every nod to 70s Swan Song gatefolds, there are reminders of the band’s love of experimentation. It begins with “Dies Iraea,” a haunting excursion to the Catholic Requiem that conjures up just as much eerie religious overtones as Black Sabbath‘s take on the devil’s interval.
Experimentation has also been the band’s Achilles heel in terms of gaining a wider audience and examples of that crop up at the end with “The Savage Hippy” and “It Tastes Better Than The Truth.” The difference now is how the Melvins are now content with letting their idiosyncrasies play out into the listening experience instead of ramming it down out of the gate, seemingly trying to weed out the loyal from the casual followers.
The Melvins seem to be content with their audience now, and Nude With Boots is an album that is meant to challenge themselves more than those that follow them. And as it points out, when the band takes this approach, following the Melvins into their middle ages is turning out to be a very rewarding thing.