Corey Taylor is the Grammy award-winning singer/songwriter for the heavy metal band Slipknot, as well as the hard rock outfit Stone Sour and various solo collaborations. In addition to music, he is the New York Times and London Times best-selling author of Seven Deadly Sins: Settling The Argument Between Born Bad and Damaged Good and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Heaven; Or How I Made Peace with the Paranormal and Stigmatized Zealots and Cynics in the Process. He’s also written House of Gold and Bones, a comic book mini-series adapted from the short story and Stone Sour double-concept album of the same name. He keeps his stuff in many houses and hotel rooms around the world with his wife and children, much to their chagrin.
To the best of my knowledge, there are three significant absolutes in life: 1) Oliver Stone’s Alexander is an unwatchable piece of shit; 2) as long as I have coffee, I will always be regular; and 3) the Melvins do not give a fuck.
That last one not only gives me solace, it also fills me with hope.
I fuckin’ love the Melvins. They have been one of my favorite bands for 16 years. I devour everything they put out no matter how many times the line-up changes. As long as the world has Buzz Osborne and Dale Crover, I know we’ll all be OK. That opinion has only strengthened after listening to their new album Hold It In. If you ever needed reminding why the Melvins are kick-ass, this album will never let you forget it.
One of the many fantastic things about Hold It In is who accompanies Buzz and Dale here: none other than Paul Leary (guitar) and J.D. Pinkus (bass) of the Butthole Surfers, making this arguably one of my favorite iterations ever to record under the Melvins name. Knowing they also helped write as well as record, I knew I was in for a treat. Knowing this was released on Ipecac Recordings, I also knew I wouldn’t have to worry about what I can only refer to as “corporate moistenings.” So I applied my headphones and hit “play” with a smile.
Right out of the gate, Hold It In does not disappoint. First track “Bride of Crankenstein” (the first in a series of seriously awesome song titles) sets the tone with GUITAR TONE so sludgy you need hip-waders. “What was that shit you gave me?” come the lyrics, spat with abandon, “Spinnin’ round the wrong way, it’s gonna be a long day…” and whether it’s Buzz singing or Leary, you feel the disorientation. It’s classic Melvins. Shifting gears a bit, the Paul Leary-penned “You Can Make Me Wait,” is a killer slice of airy So-Cal rock that finds its soul by being laden with reverb and chord changes. My only complaint here is that the vocal delivery is a bit wistful, getting lost amongst the colliding effects. But it doesn’t detract from my enjoyment. With the Melvins, you listen to everything as a whole. Never let it be said that this band can’t write a song.
That’s the thing that becomes apparent right away: while their contemporaries from the ’90s are busy chasing the more mediocre end of the gene pool lately, the Melvins are pissing in the deep end, doing things the way they always have for over 30 years: THEIR way. They’ll come off of something like “…Wait” — an elegant arrangement with a Beatles nick — and go into “Brass Cupcake” (another killer title), which sounds like what Hüsker Dü would do in a fight with the Pixies. “Because we got a lot of mouths to feed!!!” Buzz screams, and the fun’s just beginning. Equal parts clever and aloof, this song definitely goes over. Leary and Osborne’s guitar work goes so well together, with Pinkus and Crover putting the ass in the brass. It’s a rock band that wants to play! Who’d have thought it? “Brass Cupcake” morphs into “Barcelonian Horseshoe Pit” (again, what a title!), a nice manic blend of backwards-tracking and cymbal work that eventually punches into open chords and noise making beautiful love to each other. Through it all, every drop sounds like the Melvins, daring the listener to give a shit about what they’re doing to them.
“Onions Make the Milk Taste Bad” (Christ, these titles…) gives you a glimpse into Buzz the Riffmaster. Make no mistake: this band is guitar-driven and heavy as they come. Just before the riff goes for the throat, they bring it down a bit to let you breathe. There’s wonderful work with production here. Hey, Modern Rock bands! This is what you call “dynamics”! Stop sucking the life out of your recordings! The groove that Crover sets is just another reminder that he’s shamefully underrated. Just before it gets too serious, “Eyes on You” ushers in some fun. “Hey neighbor, I hope you don’t mind/I got my eyes on you!” What a great line! It’s sly humor, with tongues piercing cheeks. Showing off yet another side to this quartet, there’s a jaunty vibe that made me tap my feet and sing along. With every song, it occurs to me that this is the strongest line-up musically, in my opinion. These guys can keep up with each other and it makes listening to the songs effortless.
“Sesame Street Meat” (Jesus, they win!) brings a little doom-rock to the party, in a great way. No one does muddy metal like the Melvins. It’s so groovy — imagine if War had been a metal band. “You’re turnin’ green,” comes the verse, “and now it’s all up to me….” “Nine Yards” cranks the tempo and the pulse. “You won’t see us again!/If you do, you won’t call us friends!” That line alone proves that the Melvins don’t just throw away lyrics — they’re just as important as the riffage and the vibe. Like a tempered jam session, “Nine Yards” lifts the album out of the syrup and into the sugar. But with slamming doors and whistling guitars, we cruise seamlessly into “The Bunk Up,” a frenetic bit of back-and-forth between Buzz and Leary, playing so well here that it makes me mad that they never really did this before. There’s ample room for atmosphere that comes in halfway through, playing with melodies and what sounds like guitar synth. It’s delicious.
“I Get Along (Hollow Moon)” puts some stomp in the honky-tonk, with Pinkus and his bass leading the way down the trail. Once again, though, the effects on the vocals are a little too wet — I can only really catch the title in the song. I dig it, but normal people might not. This is swiftly corrected with “Piss Pisstopherson” (that’s it — I quit), a little blast of a tune that just ROCKS. It’s the only thing I can think of: it just fucking rocks. “Oh, I feel it comin’ on/It’s past the point of no return” — the words of a man on the verge of rapture.
The technical riffage on this album is great, and yet it lives in the same world as the smoother, chorded tunes on this album. It’s refreshing even as it’s old-school. Too many bands are one or the other these days; the Melvins, as is always the case, say FUCK THAT.
The final track, “House of Gasoline,” brings it all together with guitars dueling for supremacy and surprise pauses and drops. The best part of this though, is that after two and a half minutes, they just start making music, jamming and painting with colors they don’t sell in stores anymore. This goes on for ten minutes, but it doesn’t feel long because it’s EXCITING. These guys KNOW what they’re DOING, and it SHOWS.
Hold It In is a great album, and I’m just getting started on it — I mean, I’ve only listened to it, like, 12 times. It’s an album that you either get or you don’t. That’s why the Melvins don’t fit in the musical landscape of modern rock, and yet that’s exactly why they’re VITAL. There’s no pre-programmed parental issues or screaming for your throat’s sake here. This is rock but it’s also art. If you don’t believe me, compare it to any of the shit that passes for rock & roll on the radio or anywhere else, yours truly included.
If you’re a Melvins fan, you’ll love Hold It In. And if you’ve been thinking about checking them out, this album is a great introduction. And if you don’t like the Melvins, that’s OK as well: like I said, the Melvins do not give a fuck. And I thank them for that.