Melvins - Pinkus Abortion Technician (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick


Pinkus Abortion Technician (2018)


It’s a daring strike to open an album with a cover, so in true Melvins fashion, Buzz, Dale and the boys double down on the gambit and kick off Pinkus Abortion Technician, their 28th(?) album with two covers- a spirited take on the James Gang classic “Stop!” which the band warps into a timely cover of Butthole Surfers’ “Moving to Florida” wherein guitarist/vocalist clearly has a ball portraying a backwards yahoo worried about “soviet Jews.” For the past decade or so, the core Melvs, Osborne and drummer Dale Crover, have been inviting their friends into their sandbox and recording each subsequent album with a new lineup. Tellingly, the band doesn’t represent each new lineup as “the Melvins with so and so,” but rather, the credits clearly state each new crew as the Melvins proper.

This time around recurring Melvin sidekick Jeff Pinkus of the Surfers is on bass and 2017 Melvins touring thunderstick Steven McDonald of Redd Kross and OFF! is… also on bass… at the same time on the same tracks as Pinkus. As their double drum attack during the “Big Melvins” years shows, the Melvins aren’t afraid of playing with unusual lineups. Yet, most interestingly here, is that while there is fun double bass interplay, Pinkus and McDonald seem to have been recruited for their songwriting chops as much as their finger pluckin’ skills.

The result is a freewheeling record that, at least for me, recalls the rapidly recorded records of the mid to late ‘70s where bands, rushed by label demands, wouldn’t have time to second guess themselves and would kick out the jams as rapidly as they could. Sometimes this led to absolute masterworks- see Station to Station. Sometimes to led to fun diversions, such as Ron Woods’ first solo album, and sometimes it led to straight up junk.

Yet while, this record has the whimsy and drive of a turbo-cut record, it’s not likely that this was tossed off. Osborne often explains that he plans things about two years in advance. But, he also likes to explain that he likes to let his band be a band, and not merely extra appendages for him to use. Probably because the Melvins have comfortably settled into their revolving lineup status, the band is able to yank out the best of both worlds here.

Perhaps most striking is how much space there is on this record. Recent Melvins and Melvins adjunct albums, such as Crystal Fairy and Basses Loaded were dense record crammed with driving riff and pounding drum. Yet here, the band plays with ambiance and texture. “Flamboyant Duck” is built around Crover’s unnerving vocal tint and a backwater guitar, allowing Crover’s voice to circle and weave into the plucking riff. Sometimes less is more and here every single “plink” works to create the feeling that something’s not quite right out in there woods, hear? See this too with the wonderful, rumbling roar of the album’s second Surfers cover, “Graveyard.” As Osborne’s guitar wails away, the bass duo set a cool dread into motion while Crover stomps down. Then, when Osborne’s iconic howl crashes down over the slithering but sparse beat, that’s all there really needs to be said.

It’s noteworthy that this record really does appear to be a true band effort. Of the nine compositions here, Osborne and Crover only have one writing credit each. Meanwhile, Pinkus brings in his down-home country honk on the aforementioned “Flamboyant Duck” merging it easily within the Melvins own heavy sonic mass. At the same time, McDonald, ever the am power popper, contributes “Embrace the Rub” which walks that sweet, sweet line between first wave West Coast punk and the Sweet. (There’s also an early Beatles cover for good measure which is as earnest as it is wry- try to pin down the Melvins to an exact stance and you will find them bending around you with ease.)

All of this is to say, in true late 70s record style, the band seems to be throwing everything in the blender and letting things lock together as they will, as opposed to forcing a mandate. What’s not surprising about this is that it works- Melvins reportedly always leave a lot of stuff on the cutting floor, saving the best for actual release. But, what is surprising is how Melvinsish this record sounds, despite the fact that the two main Melvins are generous with the rudder on this album. Does this mean that McDonald and Pinkus are gifted enough to master this unique style within a matter of months or does it mean that Osborn and Crover generate a sort of heavy/spookiness aura about them? Who’s to say, but as this record shows, sometimes loosening the reigns and letting the horses run wild takes you to unexpected places… and if you’re lucky, those places can be pretty neat. To that end, I’d say the Melvins are pretty lucky indeed, but the Osborne in my head counters that statement with one of his own oft repeated idioms: “It’s funny. I find the harder I work, the luckier I am.”