(out of 5)
Let’s be fair here. Yes Tres Cabrones (Spanish for “three dumbasses”) may be a new Melvins album but, of these 12 tunes, four appeared on the 1983 10″ EP, three on the Gaylord 7″ EP, one on the Amphetamine Reptile BASH 13 compilation and one on a split single with Helmet; that’s 9 songs that had already come out in some way or another. Even if you didn’t forfeit a mortgage payment to obtain legit copies of all this music, you probably already downloaded it.
But hey, why waste an opportunity to release a new record? After all it’s been a while – roughly six months – since the last official Melvins LP and we were starting to miss these guys! It should also be made apparent to the casual fan or novice listener that Tres Cabrones was not made by the “official” (sort of a loose term by Melvins’ standars) Melvins lineup of Buzz Osbourne (guitar, vocals), Jared Warren (bass), Dale Crover and Cody Willis (both drums). Instead the gimmick this time is that the new record features original drummer Mike Dillard while Dale Crover plays the bass in an attempt to recreate the group’s 1983/1984 pre-sludge style. As evidence by their 2005 demo collection Mangled Demos from 1983, the Melvins began as a punk band and featured Dillard on drums and a pre-Mudhoney Matt Lukin on bass.
However Tres Cabrones isn’t a punk record. Sure covers of “Walter’s Lips” by the Lewd and “Stick ’em Up Bitch” by Pop-O-Pies are fast, energetic punky tunes (and damn good ones at that!) but the rest of the record consists of stripped down heavy rock that really isn’t all that different from what the Melvins are typically known for. If anything, it’s just another excuse for the Melvins to rock out and Buzz has no problem creating wonderfully catchy, heavy riffs and twisted little melodies that make otherwise normal, mid-tempo headbanging tunes like “Dr. Mule”, “Dogs and Cattle Prods”, “Psycho-delic Haze” and “Stump Farmer” sound weirder than say ZZ Top.
“I Told You I Was Crazy” is possibly the creepiest song the Melvins have ever done with all those eerie UFO noises and Twilight Zone music. And, of course, “City Dump” and “American Cow” are signature Melvins sludge tunes. The three “traditional” songs, “Tie My Pecker to a Tree”, “99 Bottles of Beer” and “In the Army Now” may be fun and funny but don’t really add much and are really just novelty tunes. But they’re only a minute long each so they don’t ruin the otherwise excellent album.
As far as playing goes, Mike Dillard clearly isn’t Dale Crover so don’t expect that crazy Crover style with all those unique patterns; his drumming is pretty straight forward and simple. Then again I don’t think anybody could really do what Dale Crover does; it’s part of what makes the Melvins so unique in the first place so the point is kind of moot. As far as Crover’s bass playing goes, I really can’t tell if he’s doing anything that’s really out there or if he’s just keeping a solid beat. Ultimately though, who cares because this shit rocks!
So there you have it; seven classic heavy tunes, two wicked punk rock covers, three fun throwaways and a cute billy goat on the cover.