Melvins – A Walk With Love and Death

Posted: 2 July 2017 in Albums
Tags: , , , , ,

Ipecac Recordings – 7th July 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

Melvins’ 415th album since their formation in the Mezozoic era is a double: their first. As if the founding sludgelords, the masters of the megalithic, needed to take it to another level of epic indulgence. A Walk With Love and Death isn’t exactly a concept album, as much as an album of two halves. So says the press release. If anything, it’s actually two distinct albums released together: Death, a proper Melvins’ release and Love, the score to the Jesse Nieminen directed, self-produced short also titled A Walk With Love and Death.

But of course, it’s a Melvins album. Which means that, fundamentally, it sounds like a Melvins album. That’s no criticism: I want a Melvins album to sound like a Melvins album but then, would it ever sound like anything else?

They really make full use of the double-album format for this outing. It begins with a slow-building, expansive six and a half-minuter that has echoes of ‘Mine is No Disgrace’ from The Crybaby, but instead of erupting into a blistering wall of noise, keeps the focus tight on a proggy trip with a vaguely psychedelic hue.

‘Sober-delic’ follows, a mid-tempo trudge which also stretches beyond the six-minute mark and ‘Euthanasia’ is vintage Melvins, a hefty sludge trudge with heavily treated vocals. ‘What’s Wrong With You?’ is a warped psychedelic stoner rock tune with a twisted pop edge, propelled by a thumping bassline and wild guitars. The nine songs which make up the Death album don’t exactly offer up any surprises (which is arguably a surprise in itself given the band’s wildly varied output over the last 30 years), but do deliver a Melvins album that’s as solid as anything they’ve done. It brings the grind. It hammers with the riffs. It’s sludgy, grungy, yet packs some great pop moments. And what at times it lacks in terms of attack, it compensates in scale, with the prog leanings of ‘Flaming Creature’ partially submerged by the low-end churn that they’ve made their own.

Commencing with a vaguely experimental intro track, in which mellifluous piano notes drift through the sound of chatter, the Love set is a very different proposition. The fourteen tracks are shorter and stranger, leaning toward noisy ambience, and find Melvins revisiting the kind of territory explored on Prick and the playfully perverse ‘Cowboy’ single from the mid ‘90s.

When they do actually play tunes, it’s whacked out, trippy psychedelic pop or fucked -up jazz: ‘Give it to Me’ is a zany, mess of doodling Hammond organs and theramins duelling with thumping percussion that’s pure 60s garage. But mostly it’s weird shit like ‘Chicken Butt’ and ‘Halfway to Bakersfield’, and it’s all very much ‘what the fuck’?

It’s Melvins’ eternal capacity to confound which is an integral aspect of their enduring appeal. It would be so easy, and no doubt more career-savvy to work to their tried and tested formula and to put out an album of straight ahead sludge rock every two to three years, instead of going off on infinite tangents and releasing two albums a year. But the fact is, they’re actually very good at producing weird, far-out experimental shit, and the results of some of their collaborations have been as strong as unexpected. It’s their drive to create, and to endlessly push in so many different directions which keeps Melvins fresh, and above all, relevant.

Melvins - Love and Death

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