Melvins - Steven McDonald [EP] (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick


Steven McDonald [EP] (2017)

Amphetamine Reptile

In 1992, the Melvins paid tribute to KISS by recording a solo EP each, in homage to the similarly released KISS solo EPs of 1978. Because there were only three Melvs at the time, the quadrilogy remained incomplete until 2017, when the band had new bassist Steven Mcdonald (of Redd Kross of course) complete the project begun some 24 years earlier. As an interesting note, Melvin Dale Crover and Melvin associate Toshi Kassai supply some support here, but Buzz Osborne does not appear in any fashion, making this one of the very few Buzz-less Melvins release- the others being the very rare Shit Sandwhich which might be a blank disc and another release which, while credited to the Melvins, might not be a Melvins release at all.

Anyway, the term “pop sensibility” is thrown around way too much in music journalism, but still, if one guy embodies “pop sensibility,” it’s Mcdonald. Each of the four tracks here has a distinct identity- country rock, glam balladry, straight up punk, art rock- but all of them are bent around a composer’s structure. And that’s a great thing, mind you. By taking the country twinge of Lynyrd Skynrd and breaking that down into a bubble gum structure, Mcdonald emits that world wearied feeling of the 70’s deep cuts without falling prey to the excesses and aimlessness that would hinder a lot of the country rockers. See this too on “what did I ever do to you?” Redd Kross were at once first wave hardcore and not hardcore at all, and Mcdonald kicks out a ripper that has the snarl and bite of any Slash or Dangerhouse band, but by burnishing the thing with a Slade sheen, it doesn’t feel like he’s playing to any assumed attitude- he’s just doing what he does- one part punk, one part pop, one part deceptively weird eccentricities that only appear when you really look between the lines.

He closes out the release with a cover of Sparks’ “when do I get to do it my way,” which if my math is right, is a triple entendre. At once, Mcdonald pays tribute to the band that he used to serve as a hired gun, nods to the Kiss EPs which where littered with covers (some good, some not so much), and finally, asserts that he’s making the record he wants to make without having to negotiate or work with any others. Lucky for us, unmitigated Steven Mcdonald is the exact thing his entire career has been pointed the last 35 years. This record is actually what the Kiss solo records claimed to be- an unwavering look at what makes up the artist. And, what makes up Steven Mcdonald might be based in am pop-rock, but it’s as deep and revealing as any extended, existentialist, soul bearing release you could find.