Melvins/Flipper - Hot Fish [EP] (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Melvins / Flipper

Hot Fish [EP] (2019)

amphetamine Reptile

The Melvins REALLY like Flipper. So much so, that they’ve previously recorded at least four Flipper covers and have routinely played flipper songs live. And that’s not even counting the fact that the band routinely cites the seminal Bay Area band along with Side B of My War as foundational influences.

Unfortunately, in 2019, Flipper is down to two members, Ted Falconi and Steve DePace, and they usually supplement live with guest musicians- most recently mike Watt and David Yow. Never to miss an opportunity, Buzz Osborne recognized that Melvins are essentially a duo as well, so he hooked up with the early punkers to cut a split EP. Side A is the Melvins and Flipper in collaboration. Side B is the Melvins covering Flipper. Got that?

The one original here, “Hot Fish,” does both bands justice though it seems Osborne was aiming to craft a song in the classic Album style. He succeeds. Set around a low, grimey, rumbling riff that the loops and sounds like a funk jam slowed down four times, the rest of the band sets a crackling racket over the top as Osborne wails in his blues-meets-horror tension. He’s clearly having fun here as he bends late ‘60s style folk-poetry into something more sinister. He mentions having mental problems and consulting with both doctors and street drug dealers, giving them both equal amounts of respect. It’s a nice subtle juxtaposition that could be bent in several directions, and like the late ‘60s weirdoes, and like flipper themselves, there isn’t clarity here so much as acid-style murky paranoia. What there is, however, is lots of hard-as-hell rumbling and smashing. Falconi’s guitar is as low as sinister as its ever been. Drummer DePace, working in tandem with Dale Crover, crack down hard in the tribal style. This is a mean track.

For their second track together, the pair covers Flipper’s “Sacrifice,” which the Melvins previously covered on their iconic Lysol album. The version here is longer and more crazed at the end. Everyone seems to be having fun here jamming. But, while “good vibes” jamming can derail a lot of studio recordings, because this music is so menacing, it becomes more dynamic as the musicians add more and more momentum banging off of each other. It’s one thing to do a tribute, but its another to include the subject of the tribute in the song itself.

The flipside is just the Melvins themselves, covering the well known track “I saw you shine” and the comparably more rare “Flipper blues.” Both tracks find the Melvs tipping their hats to flipper and playing in the low, grinding Flipper style while keeping some of that classic Melvins energy in the cracks. (Interesting, that as the Melvins have grown older, they’ve generally sped up and have become more energetic!) It’s a good play because it shows how much Flipper has influenced the band and their own legendary slow and low smash. But, it also shows that Flipper influence is just one part of the Melvins recipe, something some publications are oft to forget. It’s one thing to let an artist know you appreciate them, and its yet another to approach them as equals. Here, Buzz and Dale, who are veteran-veterans themselves, meet the remaining Flipper warriors on equal ground and by doing so, pay the gold standard freak punkers proper respect, while also working with them to obtain something quite rare.