“It would be more impressive if it flowed the other way,” Oscar Wilde once commented while observing Niagara Falls. In other words, watching water fall isn’t so amazing when you take gravity into account.
It’s hard to avoid similar thoughts when stacking up Melvins against the hundreds of stoner and doom-metal bands inspired by them. Built on a foundation of Blue Cheer and Black Sabbath (and alongside contemporaries like Earth, Sleep and Kyuss), the Melvins’ bong-crunching riffs, lurching pace, and Cookie Monster roaring on ‘90s-era albums like Houdini and Stoner Witch became blueprints for bands ranging from Electric Wizard to Eyehategod, Boris, Black Tusk and Bongripper.
But The Melvins were always a more complicated and weird band than most of the dope druids that followed as the Washington foursome demonstrates once again on 24th studio full-length Hold it In (Ipecac Recordings). You can bet Electric Wizard would never transition from Hold It In’s pummeling opener “Bride of Crankenstein” to the sunny sing-along of “You Can Make Me Wait,” its ‘70s MOR vibe making you think you’ve stumbled into an Electric Light Orchestra album.
The Melvins always seem to be wearing a smirk, and their slightly goofy, uncool side crops up all across Hold It In. That’s mostly thanks to King Buzzo’s winking vocals. Even on gut-busting, nearly straight stoner tracks like “Sesame Street Meat,” you can hear him just barely taking the piss out of his own growling seriousness, and it’s hard to imagine yourself gunning a GTO down the highway as Buzzo wails like a histrionic Alice Cooper on “Brass Cupcake.”
But if Hold it In occasionally emits the knowing detachment of a band that’s been around for more than three decades, more often than not, it sounds like a group that still loves and embraces their own weirdness. This fact is most apparent in 12-minute closer “House of Gasoline,” which, in classic ‘90s let’s-make-the-last-track-crazy style, slides from chugging anthem to sludgy noisescape with a maze of wobbly, unpredictable interludes along the way.
Critics’ Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars.
The Melvins hit Orpheum in Ybor City on Thurs., Nov. 6. Honky opens. Doors at 7 p.m. Admission is $17 advance, $20 at the door.