Basses Loaded (Ipecac) is not the strangest thing the Melvins have ever recorded. In their 33-year, 25-album domination of the sludgy underground, they’ve come out with fart-joke gems like Hold It In (2015) and Everyone Loves Sausages (2013). But there’s something so cathartic, so entirely disenchanted about King Buzzo and Dale Crover’s melting-crayon metal that it truly speaks to American heritage. And what’s more American than baseball?
The prickly rock duo take that concept and run with it on this four-string symposium. Any grunge lover will drool over the pinch-hitter lineup: Krist Novoselic of Nirvana, Steve McDonald of Redd Kross, Trevor Dunn of Fantômas and Jeff Pinkus of Butthole Surfers. Crover goes deep on four tracks, proving his muscle on any and all rhythmic instruments.
The tongue wags in the cheek as much as the strings do here. There’s the playground raunchiness of “Shaving Cream” and the polka-punk of “Maybe I Am Amused.” Novoselic whips out his accordion here while Buzzo bends his guitar into a fire alarm. The title could be a dig at the big bassist’s collaboration with “Maybe I’m Amazed” singer and former Beatle Paul McCartney. There’s also a cover of the fab four’s “I Want To Tell You” that turns the pop track into a roadhouse wonder. The Melvins thrive on irreverence, after all.
The shame about this album is that the cameos rely on quantity and not quality. The talent is immense, for sure, but leaving Dunn and the others to simply man the low end and not allow for showboating is a waste of these riches. The Melvins’ brand is chaos, but Basses Loaded goes for the bunt.