I'm always in awe of the prolificity and breadth of the Melvins. Being active nearly forty years now, they have continued relentlessly to churn out material, digging out their vast experimental and niche identity of sludgy, noisy, grungy, avant-garde doom metal and rock. While there is a recognizable style regarding their dense grooves and bold vocal deliveries, they certainly have been keen on evolving their sound with a wavering amount of innovative progress each release. It's genuinely shocking to recognize they have reached their 24th full-length studio album—with EPs, collaborations, and compilations, it is roughly 32. Their newest effort, Working with God, is the second LP to feature founding drummer Mike Dillard, who harkens back to King Buzzo's highschool days. Naturally, with Dillard on drums, longtime drummer Dale Crover took over bass duties.
Admittedly, with such a quantity, it's easy to question the quality. Although I do cherish Melvins' irreverent attitude and loose cannon approach to releasing music, not every egg they lay is golden. The project's rotating door lineup has caused both musical masterpieces and some inconsistency throughout the years. Obvious notable albums would include classics such as Bullhead, Houdini, Stoner Witch, and Stag as well as their Big Business collaboration releases of (A) Senile Animal, Nude with Boots, The Bride Screamed Murder, and The Bulls and the Bees EP.
The past decade has held a far more volatile musical chairs lineup within the Melvins camp, leading to my interest slowly weaning. Nonetheless, there are still some worthy and overlooked pieces that deem these recent albums worth a shot. For the most part, the same perspective can be applied to this new Working with God LP, considering it has some really solid material, but not to a significant extent of fully re-engaging fans who, like me, gradually lost interest.
Opener "I Fuck Around," a cheeky cover of the Beach Boys, delivering a knee-jerk reaction of giggles. Still, the humor and absurdity of the track wore off quickly, yet I’ll still give props to the band for tackling surf rock. They continue this pattern of tongue-in-cheek renditions shown in the underwhelming take on Harry Nilsson's "You're Breakin' My Heart" now labeled as "1 Fuck You" and an interestingly acapella version of 50's doo-wop hit "Good Night Sweetheart." Although the band can earn some engagement points simply from the preposterous nature of these covers, they undoubtedly lack anything to warrant another listen.
Along with the fairly unfavorable covers, this album also throws out some not-so-worthy original tunes. The most apparent offender would be the intro of "Brian the Horse-Faced Goon." Separated into two tracks, it seems as if the dissonant music and vocals were designed to be annoying on purpose. The "real" "Brian the Horse-Faced Goon" song that follows is far more tolerable but nonetheless tainted by its appetizer. Other moments of irritation include the cacophonous Gregorian chanting layered over sludge metal in the last minute of "Boy Mike" and repetitive lyrical lacklusterness of "Hot Fish."
I found myself scratching my head in disbelief of why one would feel compelled to include such off-putting musicality, but am again reminded back to the satirical personality of frontman Buzz as well as the potential immaturity and chemistry inevitable of reuniting high school buddies. Nonetheless, I'd advise not to be entirely deterred by these complaints as fortunately the original material incoming is well worth the wait.
The three-hit combo of "Negative No No," "Bouncing Rick," and "Caddy Daddy" is sincere perfection in the mind of a Melvins fan. It's got oomph, groove, and grit in the vein of (A) Senile Animal or Stoner Witch. Focusing on both "Negative No No" and "Caddy Daddy," the triumphant pace is so classic and instantly will provoke some head bobbing in sync with the tasty riffs. When Buzz bellows out the line "it's morally superior," there is such an alluring and sinister level of confidence alike the quality that initially attracted me to this group.
On the other hand, "Bouncing Rick" ramps up the energy almost to an early Ministry level of organized chaos. It's easy to simply focus on the hypnotizing momentum of the rhythm section, but there are brief moments where the lead guitar breaks through and delivers monstrous Mudhoney grunge solo vibes. A couple of other very notable tracks are "The Great Good Place," boasting a surprisingly catchy hook of "I wouldn't touch that if I were you…" and "Hund," soaking with primal sludge spirit.
With such an overflowing discography, probability leans towards the likelihood of some duds and there have definitely been some Melvins endeavors that I could've done without, but luckily Walking with God crawls into the mostly favorable territory. I certainly have my handful of criticisms towards this latest record, which leads me to feel really quite mixed about the album as a whole. However there are some extremely enjoyable and redeeming singles.
While not consistent enough to sit on par with favorites like Houdini and (A) Senile Animal, I'd still deem this material worth giving a listen considering there's a myriad of styles presented from pensive doom pieces to sweaty sludgy moshers. I welcome several of the songs from Working with God being added to the live set with open arms and am hopeful that the band shed the less compelling aspects of this album in exchange for the applaudable traits in future material.