ALBUM REVIEW: Melvins’ “Pinkus Abortion Technician”

ARTIST: Melvins + ALBUM: Pinkus Abortion Technician + LABEL: Ipecac + RELEASE DATE: APR 20, 2018 Pre-Order

The only thing certain in life is death, taxes, and the Melvins. Thus it comes as no surprise that 2018 brings us the bands 26th studio album (counting their collaborations with Lustmord and Jello Biafra). That’s right. Over a 30 year career, the always reliable Melvins have released 26 albums. No one, I mean no one has ever remotely matched their prolific output. What’s more, the Melvins don’t just crank out the same album over and over again. Always willing to embrace experimentation, the band continues down that route with a recording that features two bass players – Redd Kross’s Steven McDonald and Butthole Surfers/Honky bassist Jeff Pinkus.

Over the years the band has played with two guitarists. They’ve also played with two drummers. An album with two bass players only seems logical. Don’t confuse this with 2016s Basses Loaded, that featured five different bass players across the albums individual tracks. Pinkus Abortion Technician features both bassists on each track. Both McDonald and Pinkus have history with the band. Pinkus began his collaboration with the band on 2014s Hold It In, that also featured Butthole Surfer’s guitarist Paul Leary. He toured with the band and also appeared on Basses Loaded. McDonald took over live duties and also appeared on Basses Loaded and last years’ A Walk with Love and Death.

The album opens with a medley of the James Gang’s “Stop” and the Butthole Surfers’ “Moving to Florida” called “Stop Moving to Florida.” It’s the kind of bonkers combination that only the Melvins could pull off. Starting off with a somewhat classic rock sound with soaring lead guitar by Buzz Osborne, the track then devolves into Butthole Surfers weirdness when it gets into the “Moving to Florida” section. There’s two more covers on the album, also songs they’ve played live in recent years. Last year, the band covered the Beatles “I Want to Hold Your Hand” in their live sets with McDonald on bass and prior to that they covered the Butthole’s “Graveyard” during Pinkus’ touring tenure. “I Want to Hold Your Hand” sounds like the Melvin’s covering the Beatles. There’s thick guitars and while it isn’t as catchy as the original, it’s still obviously the Beatles song. That’s to say, they make it their own by simply covering it. They don’t really re-invent it.

The five original songs are wonderfully strange and quintessentially Melvins. “Embrace the Rub” is an uptempo, punk-y number that clocks in under two minutes long. They follow that up with the seven-minute-plus long “Don’t Forget to Breathe.” This song is among the highlights of the album. A mid-tempo, prodding number that features some atypical instrumentation (a banjo or mandolin, maybe? keyboards or organ), the song stands out as one of the more intricate songs on the album in terms of arrangement. “Flamboyant Duck” sees the band working in some acoustic guitars and whispered vocals. Midway through the track the song breaks down to a solitary acoustic riff that slowly builds into some larger, more familiar Melvins riff-age. Rather than taking off into some sort of rock assault, the band restrains and builds tension naturally. “Break Bread” is among the louder, rocking songs on the album. With huge vocals and guitars, it sounds like a natural fit for their live set. “Prenup Butter” is another acoustic driven track that slowly decays into a hot noisy mess. Simply put, this sounds like a song the Butthole Surfers would die to have on one their early albums.

If one thing does stand out is that the dual bass player approach doesn’t really offer anything to revolutionary. But, I’m not sure how a band like the Melvins could do it without it sounding like some prog-rock masturbation. You can hear both players, but they don’t go full-jazz freak out or anything. The arrangements seem more complimentary to both players rather than mashing them together into a cacophony of low-end notes.  That said, it should be interesting to see how this all works when both bassists join the band on their forthcoming 10-week North American tour (dates below).

This isn’t your parents Melvins album. But, this is the Melvins doing what they’ve always done, which is challenging themselves and their fanbase by pushing beyond the pigeonholes they’ve so often been confined. Indeed, music writers need a frame a reference to both connect with readers and understand a bands release in relation to their previous output. But, the Melvins don’t give a shit. This isn’t the album that’s going to convert you to full-blown Melvins fandom. But, it is an album full of great material that, along with their previous output, will cement their legacy as a forward thinking band who has never rested on their laurels.

– J. Kevin Lynch

Melvins 2018 Tour Dates

Apr. 26 – San Diego, CA @ Casbah

Apr. 29 – Dallas, TX @ Tree’s

Apr. 30 – Austin, TX @ Mohawk

May 01 – Houston, TX @ White Oak Music Hall

May 03 – Baton Rouge, LA @ Spanish Moon

May 04 – Birmingham, AL @ Zydeco

May 06 – Charlottee, NC @ Visulite Theater

May 07 – Carrboro, NC @ Cat’s Cradle

May 09 – Baltimore, MD @ Ottobar

May 10 – Philadelphia, PA @ Underground Arts

May 11 – Brooklyn, NY @ Warsaw

May 12 – Hamden, CT @ Space Ballroom

May 13 – Boston, MA @ Paradise Rock Club

May 14 – Montreal, QC @ Corona Theatre

May 18 – Cleveland, OH @ Grog Shop

May 19 – Pittsburgh, PA @ Rex Theater

May 20 – Louisville, KY @ Headliner’s Music Hall

May 22 – Nashville, TN @ 3rd & Lindsley

May 23 – Memphis, TN @ Hi-Tone

May 24 – St. Louis, MO @ The Ready Room

May 25 – Kansas City, MO @ Record Bar

May 31 – Phoenix, AZ @ Crescent Ballroom

Jul. 12 – Santa Ana, CA @ The Observatory

Jul. 13 – Los Angeles, CA @ Troubadour

Jul. 14 – Fresno, CA @ Strummer’s

Jul. 16 – San Francisco, CA @ Great American Music Hall

Jul. 17 – Sacramento, CA @ Holy Diver

Jul. 19 – Seattle, WA @ Neumo’s

Jul. 20 – Portland, OR @ Wonder Ballroom

Jul. 21 – Vancouver, BC @ Venue Nightclub

Jul. 24 – Edmonton, AB @ Union Hall

Jul. 25 – Calgary, AB @ Marquee Room

Jul. 27 – Winnipeg, MB @ Pyramid Cabaret

Jul. 28 – Fargo, ND @ The Aquarium (Dempsey’s Upstairs)

Jul. 29 – Minneapolis, MN @ First Avenue

Jul. 30 – Madison, WI @ High Noon Saloon

Jul. 31 – Chicago, IL @ Park West

Aug. 02 – Grand Rapids, MI @ The Pyramid Scheme

Aug. 03 – Detroit, MI @ El Club

Aug. 04 – Columbus, OH @ A&R Music Bar

Aug. 05 – Indianapolis, IN @ The Vogue Theatre

Aug. 06 – Rock Island, IL @ Rock Island Brewing Company

Aug. 07 – Des Moines, IA @ Wooly’s

Aug. 08 – Omaha, NE @ The Waiting Room

Aug. 10 – Englewood, CO @ Gothic Theatre

Aug. 11 – Ft. Collins, CO @ Aggie Theatre

Aug. 13 – Salt Lake City, UT @ Urban Lounge

Aug. 14 – Las Vegas, NV @ The Bunkhouse Saloon

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