(the) Melvins @ O2 Academy 2, Birmingham – Tuesday 23 October 2018


What? Already? It’s only been a year since (the) Melvins were last on these shores and damaging ears and music in Birmingham (live review here) in support of the rather splendid and splendidly weird (as usual) A Walk With Love & Death (album review here) bringing along the wonderfully colourful Redd Kross. And the last time we saw them before that it was 2016 (live review here) in support of the Basses Loaded album (album review here). It would appear to the keen eye that (the) Melvins like the UK. Fine by us. The more we get to see of them, the better.

And so here we are in 2018 with their latest album Pinkus Abortion Technician (album reviewed here) released in April and shows featuring not just one but two bassists: Redd Kross’s Steve McDonald who has been sticking around since 2015 and Jeff Pinkus of Butthole Surfers, Honky, and a few more being on and off with the band since 2013. If ever there was a sharper contrast between two bassists, McDonald and Pinkus are it. While McDonald is sharp-suited in a red and black dynamic suit that just shouts ‘Pow!’, Pinkus wears worn-out jeans, a sleeveless T, a bandana, beard, and tattoos from hands to head. Yup, basses are loaded.

As usual it’s heaviness in heavy doses of very heaviness. Crover is his usual dynamic, driving and experimental-to-the-point-of-playing-drum-lines-that-no-one-would-think-of self. Watching Crover is like watching a drummer who’s jamming along to the drums that any normal (i.e. dull) drummer would play. The only difference of course being that we can’t hear the other drummer. And that’s for the best. Obviously. King Buzzo, clad in his eye-sporting onesie, is stomping around the stage stomping out his massive riffs and menacing vocals. And then we have the two bassists. While the combined bass sound may be a little muddy due to the heavy distortion and rolled-back-on-the-treble-tones, their occasionally synchronised bass lines, occasionally synchronised leg kicking, and occasionally synchronised Status Quo-style rock boogying providing much in the way of entertainment.

The set list draws from everything as far back as 1987’s Gluey Porch Treatments (‘Eye Flys’), through the classic Houdini (‘Honey Bucket’), the Big Business collaborations (A) Senile Animal (‘The Talking Horse’) and Nude With Boots (‘The Kicking Machine’), up to 2014’s Hold It In (‘Onions Make the Milk Taste Bad’ and ‘Sesame Street Meat’) and including but only one track, ‘Don’t Forget To Breathe’, from the latest album. Where the 14-string, 4 voice, lots of drums and cymbals Melvins come together most of all tonight is in the vocal harmonies and the sheer power that the four musicians harness. Feedback, noise, drum damaging beats and flourishes, (the) Melvins are their usual show-smashing selves. And as it’s Dale Crover’s birthday, Buzzo lead the band and the crowd in singing ‘Happy Birthday’ while a roadie brings on a candle-lit cake: “We’re gonna have to cut it into very small pieces if we’re gonna share it around…” Cool. Cake! See you next year?

Witnessed by Jason Guest