Vinyl Vlog 491

Vinyl Vlog 491

Friday, 19 March 2021
‘I Fuck Around’ from the Working With God LP by The Melvins.

A deeper look at the grooves pressed into the Working With God LP by The Melvins. It has long gone overlooked and under-reported (maybe because they’re from Washington State, maybe because they first gained popular notice with the waves of alt-rock and grunge bands of the Nineties – there’s any number of possible explanations), but the fact is that the members of The Melvins are actually pretty funny guys. Each of them has a really good sense of humor. Each of them likes to laugh. Some readers might be surprised to discover that but it’s true and, listening to Working With God (their twenty-fourth album – this time working as a power trio with Buzz Osborne on guitar and vocals, Dale Crover on bass and Mike Dillard on drums), it becomes perfectly apparent.

It’s unlikely that most listeners won’t begin to feel a completely confused look manifest on their faces as their minds try to reconcile what they’re hearing after the needle drops and “I Fuck Around” begins to open the A-side of Working With God and they realize that The Melvins are lampooning The Beach Boys. It may take a second to clear the circuits, at first; there, Buzz Osborne opens the song with a reasonably accurate recreation of the vocal part which opens “I Get Around,” with the most obvious difference being that Osborne has substituted “fuck” for “get.” That might read as surprising in print, but the larger surprise in practice is how true-toned the vocal performance is; while obviously different from the original version of the song, the effort to come close is there (in a way similar to how Van Halen did “Happy Trails” on Diver Down) and, after decades of pushing dirty, grungy vocal performances over sludgy guitar riffs, hearing the shift that The Melvins make here may cause jaws to hang open and minds to be blown. As the track fades out a couple of minutes later, listeners will be able to feel that surprise turn to excitement because, at that point, anything seems possible. No one in their right mind would expect this sound from The Melvins (they might expect it from Ween – maybe), so the excitement that listeners will be feeling stems from the realization that nothing is off the table this time around – The Melvins could do anything.

The sensation that anything might be possible endures even as “Negative No No” quickly jumps back to the turgid, sludgy territory that is The Melvins’ homebase. There, fans will recognize that The Melvins haven’t changed exactly, they’re simply going out of their way to illustrate just how far they’re prepared to stretch in this running. The “anything’s possible” tip holds up consistently as “Bouncing Rick” includes some digital squealing in the band’s squalid, metallic attack before “Daddy Caddy” submerges listeners under sludge, the intro to “Brian, the Horse-faced Goon” makes an atonal cat-call at the local outcast in the schoolyard, and then the song itself figuratively submerges that goon’s head under metallic sludge to close the side.

Presumably because the y’re disinterested in losing any of the ground they made with the A-side of Working With God, The Melvins hit the ground running with sparks of chaos radiating everywhere off of “Boy Mike,” which opens the B-side of the album. There, with a menace and fury which can only be characterized as the portrait of The Melvins at the top of their game, the bandmembers combine their strengths – Mike Dillard’s ability to present a simple but propulsive beat, Dale Crover’s talent for creating a low end which straddles the lines between ‘aggressive’ and ‘melodic’ and Buzz Osborne’s talent for retaining a sense of sarcasm in his delivery of lyrics which imply fury rather than simply presenting it while also muddying up the waters with a guitar performance that is simultaneously sludgy and searing – and just hammer listeners in precisely the way they like to be abused. For three and a half minutes, The Melvins make a metallic/melodic blast which is about as clear as freshly stirred pond water, but still manages to present something just infectious enough to get even those unfamiliar with the band before now (somehow) to throw their fists in the air in appreciation. It’s incredible – and will have listeners ready for a whole second side right there.

After the pummeling issued by “Boy Mike,” The Melvins spontaneously get playful in the early running of Working With God‘s B-side with “Fuck You” – which sounds a little like “Get It On (Bang A Gong)” by T-Rex would have sounded, were it envisioned by Butthole Surfers – before dredging the proverbial lake again for more muddy metal deposits with “The Great Good Place” and then getting classically metallic as only The Melvins really can for “Hund” and then throwing one last curve ball to close the album with a damaged a capella rendition of “Goodnight Sweetheart” by The Spaniels (a.k.a. The song that Ted Dansen, Steve Guttenberg and Tom Selleck sang in Three Men and a Baby). In that end, The Melvins manage to keep listeners smiling because, while obviously silly, the band’s performance doesn’t seek to belittle the song – it only seeks to present a sweet and cute end to an album that was a little loose and fun in the first place. It is immune to genuine criticism because anyone who really tries to criticize it directly will be summarily dismissed on the grounds that they “just don’t get it” which, by extension, is a condemnation of any potential critic’s intellectual faculties (read: it’s gloriously dumb, and those who don’t see the beauty and value of that are dumb).

That inability to draw any genuine or legitimate criticism is really Working With God‘s ace in the hole. Really, fans know the band has made better albums than this and the band knows it too – but it’s perfectly obvious that they had a whole lot of fun making Working With God, and that sense of fun is the incredibly infectious thing that will get it over with Melvins fans, as well as really help the album find a comfortable seat in their record collections. [Bill Adams]


Working With God is out now. Buy it here on Amazon.

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