Melvins Hold It In CoverIn 1988, during an interview for a Seattle based fanzine, Kurt Cobain confessed, “Our biggest fear at the beginning was that people might think we were a Melvins rip-off”[1]. Now, if an individual didn’t understand Cobain’s relationship with the Melvins nor understood the Melvins’ place in the music pantheon, that quote may seem to have a pejorative tinge to it. It doesn’t. The Melvins were one of Kurt Cobain’s favorite bands for a reason. This matters because the favorite band of one of my/your favorite bands should be one of my/your favorite bands. Unfortunately, that’s not often the case. History and experience state that most people’s fandom only extends as far as MTV or Rolling Stones or their favorite local program-director controlled DJ point them; and, most people who claim to be fans of Nirvana are never pointed in the direction of the blistering and trail-blazing Melvins. This means that many people who bought a Nirvana t-shirt at Target are probably not even aware that one of Kurt Cobain’s favorite bands has a new album – a new album that makes my ears long for the volume to be turned way up.

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With Hold It In the Melvins bring Paul Leary and JD Pinkus, both from the Butthole Surfers, into their mad, inventive band (although, being from the Butthole Surfers, Leary and Pinkus probably couldn’t have been more comfortable even if they had latched onto their mother’s nipples). Besides their incredible and unique musicianship on their respective instruments, an important aspect that the Butthole Surfers members brought to the project was fresh songwriting for the Melvins. Buzz Osborne has traditionally handled most of the songwriting duties for the band, but on Hold It In  Leary penned three of the tracks as well as working in collaboration with the band as a whole. The impact of Leary and Pinkus is readily apparent (especially if Hold It In is listened to alongside the Melvins’ 2013 offering Tres Cabrones); the album has a winking eye that contributes to a sneaky light-heartedness. But, make no mistake, this is, without a doubt, a Melvins’ album[2]; the words “sludge” and “metal” were married together in regards to the band for a reason. In fact, if the album was sentient, it may protest that its eye isn’t winking, but is suffering from some sort of seizure due to the combination of an overdose of some unnamed hallucinogen extracted from the frozen moss under the Antarctica ice shelf and riding The Zipper multiple times in a row without being properly strapped in. Although Osborne has made it clear that Hold It In is not a side-project, but a full-on Melvins outing, the album definitely demonstrates that very few bands deserve to be meshed together as much as the Melvins and the Butthole Surfers.

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One of the highlights on Hold It In is the expansive “Onions Make the Milk Taste Bad”[3]. Paul Leary’s nothing-is-off-the-table Butthole Surfers guitar work blends very well with the traditional sludginess of Osborne and Dale Crover. There’s even a point when the vocals have a monastic chanting quality that morphs into a creepy sneer. “Onions Make the Milk Taste Bad” is followed by “Eyes on You,” which for a brief moment tricks the listener into thinking that the Melvins had recorded a semi-respectable radio single. Thankfully it’s a mind trick, though. Nobody wants a radio-friendly Melvins. “Eyes on You” is a funky sludge metal warning about government intrusion through surveillance – fyi, “Eyes on You” was written by Leary. “The Bunk Up” begins with guitar work that is a reminder that fans love Osborne for a reason, but Leary does a masterful job of layering a dueling sound into the track that helps create a richly textured song.

Last year I included Tres Cabrones on my Favorite Albums of 2013 list – number six, to be exact. With almost three months left to go in 2014, I’m not sure if Hold It In will garner a higher position on the 2014 year end than its predecessor did on 2013’s list. At the moment, it looks like a distinct possibility. But, even if Hold It In falls below number six on the year, I still think it’s a much stronger and more interesting album than Tres Cabrones – and I’m a fan of last year’s release from the Melvins. To be fair and up front, I’m not sure if people who graduated from high school in the early 90s are allowed by law to dislike a Melvins’ album. That aside, Hold It In is definitely an album that will make it into my frequent playlist; a claim that the vast majority of albums released this year cannot make.

Rating: 4.5/5

[1] Charles R. Cross, Heavier Than Heaven (New York: Hyperion, 2001), 114.

[2] To be fair, the Melvins have always had a mostly understated playfulness about them, too.

[3] The song title, which declares an undisputed law of nature, deserves a glowing review all on its own.

Stream Hold It In.

Here’s our interview with Buzz Osborne.