The Lowdown: At this point in their lengthy career, the Melvins are out to entertain themselves as much as their audience. This has included fruitful solo projects from founding members Buzz Osborne and drummer Dale Crover, as well as alternate versions of the band itself such as Melvins Lite and Melvins 1983 — the latter being a modern take on an early Melvins lineup. The “Melvins 1983” lineup is featured on the new album Working with God, with Osborne on vocals and guitar, Crover on bass, and original drummer Mike Dillard back in the fold. The LP is the trio’s second album in this format, and like the first, it sees the Melvins reveling in copious riffage and lowbrow humor. After all, they were teenagers when they formed the band.
The Good: Technically, the band’s 1983 lineup included bassist Mike Lukin, as Crover actually replaced Dillard as drummer in 1984. With Crover on bass and Dillard on drums, it’s a slightly more loose affair. Songs twist and turn through bouts of noise, novelty, and the sludgy riffs the Melvins have made their staple. Perhaps best illustrating the band’s intent is the opening track, “I F*k Around”, a skewered take on the Beach Boys’ classic “I Get Around”. Ideas conceived during the band members’ junior-high days inform the subject matter, like “Bouncing Rick”, a tribute to an eccentric chemistry teacher. Osborne bellows the words without a hint of irony, and the band lay down airtight heavy riffs in a consistent flow.
Highlights like “Caddy Daddy” and “Boy Mike” are mandatory, even for the well-traveled Melvins fanatic who thought they’d heard all this band can unleash. The album’s MVP is no doubt Crover, who gets to show off his bass skills once again. His rhythmic abilities translate perfectly to the instrument, and he guides the songs with inspired takes and a deliciously fuzzed-out Lemmy tone.
The Bad: Some of the album’s jokier moments become less amusing upon repeated listening. “I F**k Around” is funny the first time. Same goes for their spirited cover of Harry Nilsson’s “You’re Breaking My Heart”, which they’ve dubbed “I F**k You”. Needless to say, Working with God isn’t dinner-party appropriate. However, the album is generally consistent by Melvins standards; the only dud being the longest track, “Hot Fish”, which has an unpleasant chorus refrain that’s repeated a few too many times. We will also pass on the harsh noise frequencies at the end of “Bouncing Rick”, which rudely assault the senses.
The Verdict: What might be one big inside joke for the Melvins is a genuinely entertaining thrill ride of demented heavy rock. The 1983 incarnation could have subsisted on its own. Thankfully, the band has no qualms bringing their teenage songs to fruition, however juvenile the lyrical content. The Melvins’ winning combination of riffs and black humor is in full force on Working with God, making the album recommended listening for longtime fans and newcomers alike.
Essential Tracks: “Negative No No”, “Caddy Daddy”, “Boy Mike”