They’re back: the Melvins, the hardest working band in show business. Their latest opus is the charmingly titled Pinkus Abortion Technician, and you old timers will recognize that the title is a nod to the Butthole Surfers’ 1987 work Locust Abortion Technician. There’s a second Surfers’ connection as well; BH bassist Jeff Pinkus plays on the record, alongside bassist Steve Shane McDonald (and Tom Hazelmyer appears as a special guest). So yes, you can say with a straight face, that the double bassists indeed give the Melvins a bigger bottom.
The album gets off to a poppy start with “Stop Moving to Florida,” a mash up of the James Gang’s “Stop” and the Butthole Surfers’ “Moving to Florida,” opening with some ‘70s guitar crunch before abruptly shifting into the far more twisted environs of the Surfers’ song, with a scraggly voiced narration from some backwoods denizen. Scary. The Surfers get in on the closing track too (they’re all over this record!), as the Melvins cover the Surfers’ “Graveyard,” turning in a grinding, terrifying performance. The third cover, a gnarly take on the Beatles’ “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” isn’t as unexpected as it seems; the group covered another Beatles track, “I Want to Tell You,” on Basses Loaded (2016).
Don’t worry, there’s original work as well. “Embrace the Rub” races along at a giddy clip, then you’re slammed into the slow and steamy “Don’t Forget to Breathe,” with its sinister repetition of the song’s title (just exactly why would you forget to breathe?) alternating with mind bending guitar solos and what sounds like some kind of distorted synthesizer.
Then it’s on to “Flamboyant Duck,” which starts with the kind of guitar intro you think might lead into a cover of “Pinball Wizard.” It doesn’t. Instead, you get the dulcet tones of a banjo, a high-pitched, slightly scraped vocal, and finally the arrival of electric guitars. Then the song stops dead in its tracks, and you think it’s over. But wait! A repetitive banjo riff suddenly kicks in, leading to the song’s trippier second half; just another curveball from the band that likes to keep several of them in the air.
“Break Bread” is a jolly, upbeat number, that starts out with a more straightforward rock beat, then goes into an instrumental freak out in the last minute; great fun. “Prenup Butter” is classic Melvins; a heavy beat, squally guitar, and drawling vocal, all swirled together in a mesmerizing mix.
Overall, it’s a lighter record; none of that steady Melvins’ drone you get on other releases. Toe-tapping and catchy, even. Score another one for the Melvins! And you can check out how they wrestle with these songs in performance when they swing through the Northwest in July: Neumo’s, Seattle, July 19; Wonder Ballroom, Portland, July 20; Venue Nightclub, Vancouver, B.C., July 21. Boy howdy!