The Melvins have been around for thirty five years now, and show no signs of slowing down. They’ve just released Pinkus Abortion Technician, their second full-album collaboration with bassist Jeff Pinkus of The Butthole Surfers – after 2014’s Hold It In – and their first album to feature dual bassists (Pinkus and current full-time Melvins bassist Steve McDonald join forces here for twice the low-end, echoing the band’s previous dual drummer incarnation with the guys from Big Business). It’s an album characterised by the playful pop of recent Melvins releases, and is a brief and breezy collection of songs that showcase a group of veteran musicians who do what they want, and, crucially, still sound like they enjoy doing it after three and a half decades.
It’s something of an oddity (in a discography admittedly full of them already) in that it feels very much like a Melvins/Butthole Surfers crossover album rather than ‘just’ a Melvins album. The title and artwork are direct nods to the Surfers’ 1987 album Locust Abortion Technician, and the album is bookended by two Surfers covers – ‘Moving to Florida’ (effectively mashed together with another cover, a preceding sly, self-deprecating take on ‘Stop’ by James Gang), and a stomping version of ‘Graveyard’. Pinkus provides vocals on most of the songs, with usual Melvins frontman Buzz Osborne mostly sticking to guitar.
McDonald takes vocal duties on ‘Embrace the Rub’, a raucous little pop-punk blast very much in the vein of McDonald’s ‘main’ band Redd Kross, which comes on like a sugar rush before ‘Don’t Forget to Breathe’, one of the albums highlights. It’s a lurching, bluesy hip-swinger with some filthy-sounding bass, space-y, atmospheric electronics and some noisy soloing from Osborne, recalling the band’s Stoner Witch album.
There’s also a cover of ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’ that provides one of the most surprisingly straightforward and joyous moments on the album. The original is obviously a classic, but this version, bolstered by the group vocals and Osborne’s sharp, crunchy guitar tone, really takes it into a heavier dimension without losing its fundamentally sunny, smile-inducing charm. I heard the band play it live in Manchester a few months ago, and it’s nice to have a studio version to return to.
It may be a little strange to hear a Melvins album mostly absent of Osborne’s very distinctive, dynamic vocals, and 50% comprised of covers, but the Melvins have never been afraid of switching things up, which has always frankly been a big part of their appeal. One of their main selling points is their very cavalier attitude towards keeping any kind of status quo; the Melvins do what they want and that’s why they’re so important. Pinkus Abortion Technician is a fun addition to their discography, and further proof of their disinterest in being what others say they ought to be. I hope they continue that trend for a long time yet.