The MELVINS is essentially the duo of King Buzzo and Dale Crover. That core regularly pulls in orbiting members who the unit has performed with before as well as new blood. They move forward this time by looking again to the band’s earliest of days, enlisting original drummer Mike Dillard, who was originally with the Seattle sludge titans from 1983 through 1984. Dillard has resurfaced with the band periodically over the last 15 years, during which time Crover moved from the drum throne to bass guitar. MELVINS 1983, as they are dubbed when the crew includes Dillard, now offers us “Working With God”, a gritty and bombastic affair rekindling the spirit of yore, encompassed within a contemporary MELVINS shell.
MELVINS 1983 hits the ground running with the opening song, “I Fuck Around”, their unique take on a BEACH BOYS classic. The entire release is overtly confrontational whilst embodying the band’s wacky sense of humor and penchant for the bizarre. (For instance, they have two songs entitled “Fuck You”, the second of which is essentially a few drum and stringed instrument stabs followed by a chorus of screaming.) The ensemble’s sense of humor has served them well, allowing them to feel energized throughout their career in what’s a brutal industry. The manner in which that sense of humor is intertwined within their actual music has been a two-edged sword, however. It’s a charming quality that shines from their core and has offered fruitful art for those who seek intense music that’s left field, yet on the flipside, they’ve taken the joke too far at times, things seemingly being inside jokes that don’t translate well to all listeners.
“Negative No No” keeps the momentum going with a jangly, dirty riff that drives the song anchored in the sturdy rhythm section holding it all together. Buzz‘s distinct bellowing and almost lackadaisical crooning both rear their ugly heads here and pretty much throughout the entirety of “Working With God”. A triumphant heavy metal energy in the vein of JUDAS PRIEST surfaces on hard rocking, riff-centric tracks like “Bouncing Rick” and “The Great Good Place”. Meanwhile, the main riffs from the completely groovy track “Caddy Daddy” are reminiscent of DOWN, who noticeably took inspiration from old MELVINS.
In short, “Working With God” is a fantastic MELVINS album. Compared to the rest of their own catalogue, it is relatively linear and clear in intent with a focus upon well-written songs. The odd humor and experimental mindset aren’t entirely abandoned here. It’s just more appropriately employed to augment the songs rather than drown them out, which has been an unfortunate tendency of some MELVINS songs over the last 20 years. With “Working With God”, MELVINS 1983 is essentially a beautiful song that plays in the middle of a burly brawl, exploding inside your favorite neighborhood dive bar.