Melvins - Working with God (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick


Working with God (2021)


“Why not?” seems to be the ethos that drives Melvins 1983. Melvins 1983 is the incarnation of the long running punk-metalers that includes founding member Buzz Osborne on guitar and vocals, founding member Mike Dillard (who left the band in 1984 to become an electrician) on drums, and not-quite founding member Dale Crover on bass, instead of drums, which has been his usual spot since Dillard left. The lineup is basically a trio of old high school pals and the album very much plays out that way- silliness, in-jokes, and banging riffs included.

Just look at the opening track of their second album Working with God. It’s a cover of the Beach Boys’ “I get around” except now it’s “I Fuck Around.” That’s the joke. And like many-a joke conjured during a late night hang session, it looks stupid on its face but turns out being inexplicably hilarious… and each time, it gets funnier. It’s a bold move to open and album with a cover, and that doesn't even count the fact that opener is a vehicle for saying the f-word as many times as possible.

That is, everything here seems instinctual and not pre-planned. While, that method can result in an uneven or underbaked album, here the Melvs get the flip side of that coin. The album blasts by with a sort of primal cohesion, somewhat reminiscent of the early punk singles and first wave LPs which just gel perfectly despite time constraints and inexperience. Look at “Bouncing Rick.” Propelled by a ripping riff that sounds like it was pulled from Agent Orange, the tune rips with a sinister furor. It’s the kind of track that blows your mind when you are 17 and will still blow your mind today, no matter how old you are. The robotic “motherfucker!” overdub is a nice touch, too.

Likewise, “Brian the Horsefaced Goon,” (a mini epic split into two parts) ponders the mental struggle of a misfit drug addict, without passing judgment on the sorry character one way or another. It’s the kind of ambiguous (though slightly vicious) portrait heard in early punk and metal tracks- do they like this dangerous freak… are they laughing at him… is it a warning? Who knows? That’s good art.

Though, while a flashback undercurrent circles the album, it’s not a retro-release so much as it is an anything goes release. Mirroring the Beach Boys warp, Nilsson’s “Fuck You” is given a new spin, and the meanness and whimsy of the original is kept here, too.”Hot Fish,” a track originally recorded with Flipper is an extended, slow motion grinder that sounds like a rusty train snapping off the tracks. Is hard and freaky and isn’t driven by a thesis or a purpose so much as an internal desire to be raw and savage.

Because Dillard isn’t a touring drummer, and because Crover usually drums instead if playing bass, the chemistry of the band is somewhat adjusted. These songs are generally shorter, and blunter than many Melvins track and it works well. The band isn’t concerned with being fancy so much as they are just beating stuff up and being funny. And the album is a smasher and is quite amusing.

Think back to your core group of friends. Even today, say 5, 10, 20, 30 years removed from high school, someone can say an inside joke from back in the day and it’s still hilarious- even if it makes sense to only four other people. The Melvins have found a way to tap that energy, but instead of using it for nostalgia, they’ve channeled it into something new. Even more interestingly, whereas most inside/silly jokes are used by a closed group to draw their own bonds closer, here, the Melvins are using that device to invite people into the world. And frankly, it’s a fun and funny world despite the gratuitous use of the F-word.