Basses Loaded isn’t just a musical pun. In this particular case, it refers to the fact that the latest Melvins album is stuffed full to the brim with bassists. Six of them, in fact, spread over the album’s 12 tracks, including Krist Novselic (Nirvana, Sweet 75, Eyes Adrift), Steve McDonald (Redd Kross, Tater Totz), Jeff Pinkus (Butthole Surfers, Honky), Trevor Dunn (Mr. Bungle, Fantomas), Jared Warren (Big Business), and even the Melvins’ own powerhouse drummer, Dale Crover, who plays bass on four tracks. (Pinkus, Dunn, and Warren have also played with varying incarnations of the Melvins over the years; McDonald will join the band on their upcoming tour.)
The album is as delightfully varied as the band roster. The drone-y riffing of “The Decay of Lying” kicks off the album, then evolves into the thick, tough sound most associate with the band. But the Melvins have never hesitated to mix it up, and the next track, “Choco Plumbing,” switches to uptempo pop. That’s followed by the sinister, doom-y “Beer Hippie,” and a surprisingly straight cover of the Beatles’ “I Want to Tell You.” It makes sense that McDonald would be the bassist on the latter tune, given that the Tater Totz recorded numerous Beatles covers themselves, and he neatly handles the lead vocal as well.
It’s back to basics (bassics?) on “Captain Come Down,” and the bracing workout that is “Hideous Woman.” Then comes a real curve ball; the Melvins’ twisted take on the novelty tune “Shaving Cream,” with the obscenities restored (which does kind of negate the novelty aspect of the original, but there you go). “Planet Destructo” is more laid-back and too meandering for my tastes, with Dunn’s vocal buried too deep in the mix, though his bass line is nice and jazzy.
“War Pussy” is a solid, churning rocker, and is neatly juxtaposed to “Maybe I Am Amused,” which features the instrument you’d least expect to hear on a Melvins album, an accordion, played by Novoselic (who first unveiled his skills on the instrument during Nirvana’s Unpluggedappearance); it swings. “Phyllis Dillard” has everything you want and expect from the Melvins. And for their final trick, the closing track is a nice rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” Of course it’s an obvious choice, considering the album’s title. Can we look forward to hearing this at Safeco Field?
Overall, Basses Loaded is a nicely diverse album that leaves you fully satisfied.
(Basses Loaded can be purchased through melvinsofficial.bandcamp.com/album/basses-loaded, via Ipecac Recordings. Stream “Hideous Woman” below via YouTube.)