Buzz Osborne is nothing if not a music survivalist. The man is just about the only synonym for The Melvins, the band he has maintained for the better part of thirty years. For a man and band that came to fame on the consistent recommendation of Kurt Cobain some twenty years ago, King Buzzo has done an excellent job of turning himself into a cottage industry. He’s worked with the best musician, been part of innumerable projects and produced more material in that time that nearly all of his contemporaries. The ongoing legacy of The Melvins continues with the band’s newest release “Hold It In.”
Following the weird, quirky ride that was “Tres Cabrones” and the whimsied farce of “Everybody Loves Sausages,” it’s strangely refreshing to hear a Melvins album that’s taking their craft more…well, seriously is the wrong term, but perhaps with more dedication to artistic songwriting. Osborne finds himself this time paired with JD Pinkus and Paul Leary, luminaries of the Butthole Surfers. The addition of those external factors lends this record a certain accessibility that has often escaped The Melvins throughout the years.
“Eyes on You” is a positively swinging tune, even if it is peppered with the usual Melvins grittiness. It’s a side of Buzzo and longtime co-conspirator Dale Crover that we don’t see that often, a pervasive fun that’s hard to shake, even if the song might be about creepily stalking someone.
“Hold it in” also incorporates a lot of elements that the Melvins have either co-opted from their alternative and grunge contemporaries, or helped create in their own right. The fuzzy, major key sludge of “Nine Yards” speaks to the heady days of Soundgarden during the “Loud Love” era, though it makes sure to pick up the pace a few notches.
It’s at this point that attentive readers may notice that the trend on this record seems to be The Melvins weaving more pop and glee into their songs, and maybe that’s the truth. Buzzo himself in the press has described his album as “a refreshing piece of fiction in a boring world of fact and bullshit,” so that explains the bounce of songs like “I Get Along (Hollow Moon.)” The undeniable fact is that while this means a slight departure from the baseline Melvins fare, Buzzo is, as ever, making whatever music he feels like making.
With all that said, it remains true that no matter what musicians Buzzo is associating with, his music will always possess his characteristic thrum. “House of Gasoline,” the album’s closer, plods along with dirty crunch the likes of which we haven’t heard since “Revolve.” It’s hardly alone, as opener “Bride of Crankenstein” is a positive hammer than any modern metal band would be envious of.
As perhaps could be anticipated, there’s also a few complete throw-aways. It’s hard to envision a listener skipping past the superior fare to get to “Barcelonian Horseshoe Pit,” or “Onions Make the Milk Taste Bad.” The former is an atmospheric wandering that never provides a touchstone, the latter a hollow donut of sound with very little filling in the middle. These are the costs of doing business with Buzzo, but that doesn’t mean they’re not still aggravating in their own right.
“Hold it In” is actually a pretty good record, and that surprisingly comes without the usual attachment ‘if you’re a fan of The Melvins.’ Music fans of many stripes will find reward somewhere in the album’s running type, and most likely will find a few treasures. The collaboration of the classic Melvins sound and the melodic influence of the Butthole Surfers makes for an enjoyable ride that neither band has found separately in a while.