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The Melvins - A Senile Animal

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Artist: The Melvins

Album: A Senile Animal

Label: Ipecac

Review date: Oct. 29, 2006

Latest overpowering irony fomented by the Melvins: In many ways, this could be the album that Atlantic Records was waiting on with bated bank accounts in the early 1990s. Only it's been delivered 12 years too late, and to an independent label. With a similar sardonic glee, Melvins (now swollen to a quartet with the addition of Coady Willis and Jared Warren of L.A.'s Big Business) add to their already-weird canon with this latest 10-song bounty.

Willis and Warren are themselves known for prostration before the almighty riff, and the partnership seems to have inspired in Messrs. Crover and Osbourne a measured return from their recent, more experimental work to the rock and roll drawing board. No trifling from the lead-off "The Talking Horse," which blasts off with a tenderizing fuzz bass grind and interlocking play from the dual drummers. Here and throughout the record, the band's new double-kit approach steers clear of bash-happy exploitation, and Crover, for one, downplays his megaton-concussion capability. When not locked into unison, honest-to-gawd grooves, Crover and Willis squeeze off clackety, dueling cymbal and percussive patterns and superimposed fills. "Horse," along with "The Blood Witch," introduces the Melvins' new three-throated vocal attack - nearly every stanza is delivered via a raucous gang harmony. The band digests and excretes some 1970s staples in the form of "Civilized Worm," which chugs along lazily like a Nazareth outtake, and the chicken-scratch boogie of "A History of Drunks." The latter dresses a ZZ Top riff with a ragafied vocal about the narrator howling in pain while his lady love digs a bullet from his leg with a knife. Lyrically, it's one of those body-horror moments that rivals their first album's "#2 Pencil," and which occupies the same sickening psychic territory as the image of Kathy Bates swinging the sledge to splinter Jimmy Caan's ankles in Misery. The loose-limbed thrasher "Rat Faced Granny" sprawls across the floor with Buzzo's vocal at his most hysterically burly, and "The Hawk" likewise churns like an angry riptide before ending, like the bookending cuts, with a double-percussion workout.

Melvins throw up an apparent tribute to the venerated/reviled last three cuts on Black Flag's My War album with their own three chilled-molasses closers here. Creepy, muted guitar drives closer "A Vast Filthy Prison" before it all peters out with weird reverbed scrapes and clops.

This doesn't sound like the Crover and Buzzo show: They've given full partnership to their Seattlite brothers in arms, turning out a group effort, often in the figurative and literal sense. It's a succinct and satisfying 41 minutes, and as a taste of things to come, here's hoping that seconds and thirds are on the way.

By Adam MacGregor

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