The Melvins are back. Well, they never left. They don’t leave. The Melvins have recorded and toured almost constantly since their formation way back in the early 80s, and that crazy ride is still going on. After frontman Buzz Osbourne released a solo acoustic record earlier this year and toured the globe with nothing but his six-string, you might expect that his main project would take a brief break. But no, even before he released his own record the band had prepared and recorded its latest effort, Hold It In, the follow-up to last year’s Tres Cabrones. Introduced with this record is a brand-new band lineup featuring the addition of Butthole Surfers guitarist Paul Leary and bassist Jeff Pinkus, who previously toured with the Melvins as a stand in on the group’s 30th anniversary tour last year.
With Leary adding his second guitar parts to the band’s sounds, you’d expect this to be a more expansive record than the average Melvins affair. And it is, touching not only on the band’s signature heavily-downtuned sludge metal, but also punk-pop, electronic soundscapes, and even mellower epics that feature instrumentation rarely heard out of the band. Leary’s guitar adds atmosphere to many of the tracks, serving as a mellower counterpart to Osbourne’s heavier riffs. Both Surfers share lead vocal duties with Osbourne on various tracks, a rare occurrence on a Melvins record. Electronic noises, something the Melvins like to experiment with and the Surfers were no stranger to, also color more than a few of the tracks.
Bride Of Crankenstein is a Pinkus-sung opener that revolves around, what else given the Surfers’ infamy for illicit substance use, a bad experience with methamphetamine. You Can Make Me Wait is the first completely left-field entry on the record, with Leary’s electronically-doctored vocals humming over a pleasant ditty capped by an elegant guitar solo. Onions Make The Milk Taste Bad is the first track to resemble the traditional Melvins sound, beginning with an odd drum cadence, petering out into an ambient soundscape almost resembling something Nine Inch Nails would put onto The Fragile before suddenly exploding back into furious guitar riffs for its outro. Barcelonian Horseshoe Pit is another odd electronic piece, although it ditches the idea of traditional song structures entirely and plays out through tape loops and electronic sound effects.
Eyes On You is a rare Melvins song to take a political tone, a sarcastic upbeat number mocking the surveillance state and general post-9/11 paranoia over one of the poppiest tunes ever to appear on a Melvins record. Sesame Street Meat is by far the heaviest tune the album has to offer, coincidentally being one of the first tracks written by the new lineup. The song features the sort of heavy guitar riffing and even heavier drumming that fans will associate most closely with the act. The Bunk Up supplies maybe the record’s biggest surprise, a seven-minute tune whose middle portion suddenly morphs into a soft accordion melody that makes up over half its length. I Get Along (Hollow Moon) is a country-rock song sung by Leary with electronically treated backing vocals and synthesizer noises. Piss Pisstopherson is sung by bassist Jeff Pinkus, and perhaps appropriately it resembles something from his current main project, Honky, in both its bizarre joke title and it’s ZZ-Top style heavy blues rock. The album wraps up with House Of Gasoline, a song that starts as a three-minute rock tune but then slowly drifts into random noises that stretch out over the song’s full twelve-minute running time and finally fade out.
Hold It In doesn’t resemble any one particular Melvins record. Softer sounds like the band approached on releases like The Bootlicker pop up from time to time, the band’s habit of indulging in ambient soundscapes and weird studio tricks pop up from time to time, and their traditional super-heavy sludge gets more than enough time in-between everything else. Teaming up two of the most noteworthy weirdo-rock groups of the last three decades has produced an odd record with some scattered beautiful moments, more than enough of the two sides’ love of strange sounds, and more than enough good tunes to make it stand the test of time.
Reviews published prior to February 23, 2015 used a 1-5 star rating system.