Melvins Veer into Curio Territory with Help from a Former Butthole Surfer

Publicity photo via Bandcamp

In a way, Pinkus Abortion Technician is a departure for Melvins, heavily hinted at by the album's very title.

Pinkus Abortion Technician


20 April 2018

Melvins have at this point earned the right to screw around a little. Granted, one could make the argument that they've been screwing around their entire careers, and while it hasn't exactly earned them tremendous fortunes or worldwide ubiquity, they've done pretty well for themselves. Guitarist and usual-vocalist King Buzzo (Buzz Osborne) has been fronting the band for 35 years, and drummer Dale Crover (widely remembered as the pre-Grohl Nirvana drummer, unfair as that may be) has been around almost as long. In that time they have barely evolved at all, and that's to their credit; few bands have ever made big heavy slabs of big heavy music quite the way Melvins did and do, and they've been more than happy to exist in their niche for as long as they have been around.

In a way, Pinkus Abortion Technician is a departure for Melvins, heavily hinted at by the album's very title. Jeff Pinkus is one of two bassists on the album, alongside of-late "regular" Melvins bassist Steve McDonald. Pinkus was a member of Butthole Surfers, back when Butthole Surfers were a thing. The name of Butthole Surfers' first album with Pinkus is Locust Abortion Technician. "Pinkus" sounds a little like "Locust," sorta. It all fits together, more or less.

More importantly, however, Pinkus has his fingers all over the songs on the album named for him. There are eight songs here. Two of the songs (well, one-and-a-half) are covers of Butthole Surfers songs. Four of the songs feature a writing credit for Pinkus -- two give him sole credit. The other two are a Beatles cover, because why not, and a one-and-a-half-minute ditty written by McDonald with his wife Anna Waronker (of that dog.) and Josh Klinghoffer (of Red Hot Chili Peppers). Crover and Buzzo only get one shared credit each. Mostly, the longtime members of Melvins are playing other peoples' songs -- it's no wonder Pinkus got the title credit, this is more his album than anyone's.

How does it sound? Pretty weird, really, which should come as no surprise. One of the Butthole Surfers covers starts the album: "Stop Moving to Florida" is a krazy-glue-'n'-staples melding of James Gang's "Stop" and Butthole Surfers' "Moving to Florida". The former is a relatively straightforward and heavy rock 'n' roll song, while the latter is a stop-start pseudo-spoken-word piece that offers lots of hick clichés alongside the occasional golden lyrical nugget like "I'm gonna grind me up a White Castle slider out of India's sacred cow." It's a strange mashup that doesn't quite work, and the decision to replace Gibby Haynes' sinister sneer in "Moving to Florida" with a somewhat generic "stupid" vocal isn't exactly a home run, either. It's hard to see Melvins fans or Butthole Surfers fans getting much out of this. More successful is "Graveyard", a Surfers cover that closes the album with something that sounds an awful lot closer to heavy, sludgy Melvins territory. Crover's drums, in particular, plod just behind the beat throughout, giving it a knuckle-dragging sort of gait that works awfully well with Buzzo's huge guitars and the dual bass attack.

In between those two bookends is a fine EP's worth of material. "Embrace the Rub", the McDonald/Waronker/Klinghoffer collaborative writing effort, is a fine big dumb punk song. "Break Bread" and "Prenup Butter" are mid-tempo and sludgy, solid but forgettable. "Flamboyant Duck" is a pleasing outlier, relying on acoustic guitars and Pinkus' banjo playing for most of its textures, coming off something like one of Soundgarden's more thoughtful moments. The cover of the Beatles' "I Want to Hold Your Hand" is surprisingly faithful to the original, though the electric guitars and the drawn-out double-length notes of the chromatic bits leading into the "I think you'll understand" lyric give it an unmistakably Melvins flair.

That leaves "Don't Forget to Breathe", assuredly the highlight of the album, written solely by Pinkus but with the most distinctive Melvins feel that the album has to offer. It lopes along with a half-drunk bluesy swagger, the drums and bass(es) offering an unsteady consistency while Buzzo creates some fantastic, creative textures all over everything. It's a bludgeoning, chaotic eight minutes, utterly gleeful in its repetition and its off-balance lurch.

It's clear that Melvins weren't going for a classic here, exactly. Rather, they jammed with a friend, there was enough good material to cobble together an album, and here we are. It's not terrible, but Melvins have released too many albums, and have had too many high points in their storied career, for Pinkus Abortion Technician to rise above the level of interesting curiosity. They had fun, and the result is fine. Good for them.





'Everything's Gonna Be Okay' Is  Better Than Okay

The first season of Freeform's Everything's Gonna Be Okay is a funny, big-hearted love letter to family.


Jordan Rakei Breathes New Life Into Soul Music

Jordan Rakei is a restless artistic spirit who brings R&B, jazz, hip-hop, and pop craft into his sumptuous, warm music. Rakei discusses his latest album and new music he's working on that will sound completely different from everything he's done so far.


Country Music's John Anderson Counts the 'Years'

John Anderson, who continues to possess one of country music's all-time great voices, contemplates life, love, mortality, and resilience on Years.


Rory Block's 'Prove It on Me' Pays Tribute to Women's Blues

The songs on Rory Block's Prove It on Me express the strength of female artists despite their circumstances as second class citizens in both the musical world and larger American society.


The 50 Best Post-Punk Albums Ever: Part 3, Echo & the Bunnymen to Lizzy Mercier Descloux

This week we are celebrating the best post-punk albums of all-time and today we have part three with Echo & the Bunnymen, Cabaret Voltaire, Pere Ubu and more.


Wendy Carlos: Musical Pioneer, Reluctant Icon

Amanda Sewell's vastly informative new biography on musical trailblazer Wendy Carlos is both reverent and honest.


British Folk Duo Orpine Share Blissful New Song "Two Rivers" (premiere)

Orpine's "Two Rivers" is a gently undulating, understated folk song that provides a welcome reminder of the enduring majesty of nature.


Blesson Roy Gets "In Tune With the Moon" (premiere)

Terry Borden was a member of slowcore pioneers Idaho and a member of Pete Yorn's band. Now he readies the debut of Blesson Roy and shares "In Tune With the Moon".


In 'Wandering Dixie', Discovering the Jewish South Is Part of Discovering Self

Sue Eisenfeld's Wandering Dixie is not only a collection of dispatches from the lost Jewish South but also a journey of self-discovery.


Bill Withers and the Curse of the Black Genius

"Lean on Me" singer-songwriter Bill Withers was the voice of morality in an industry without honor. It's amazing he lasted this long.


Jeff Baena Explores the Intensity of Mental Illness in His Mystery, 'Horse Girl'

Co-writer and star Alison Brie's unreliable narrator in Jeff Baena's Horse Girl makes for a compelling story about spiraling into mental illness.


Pokey LaFarge Hits 'Rock Bottom' on His Way Up

Americana's Pokey LaFarge performs music in front of an audience as a way of conquering his personal demons on Rock Bottom.


Joni Mitchell's 'Shine' Is More Timely and Apt Than Ever

Joni Mitchell's 2007 eco-nightmare opus, Shine is more timely and apt than ever, and it's out on vinyl for the first time.


'Live at Carnegie Hall' Captures Bill Withers at His Grittiest and Most Introspective

Bill Withers' Live at Carnegie Hall manages to feel both exceptionally funky and like a new level of grown-up pop music for its time.


Dual Identities and the Iranian Diaspora: Sepehr Debuts 'Shaytoon'

Electronic producer Sepehr discusses his debut album releasing Friday, sparing no detail on life in the Iranian diaspora, the experiences of being raised by ABBA-loving Persian rug traders, and the illegal music stores that still litter modern Iran.


From the Enterprise to the Discovery: The Decline and Fall of Utopian Technology and the Liberal Dream

The technology and liberalism of recent series such as Star Trek: Discovery, Star Trek: Picard, and the latest Doctor Who series have more in common with Harry Potter's childish wand-waving than Gene Roddenberry's original techno-utopian dream.


The 50 Best Post-Punk Albums Ever: Part 2, The B-52's to Magazine

This week we are celebrating the best post-punk albums of all-time and today we have part two with the Cure, Mission of Burma, the B-52's and more.


Emily Keener's "Boats" Examines Our Most Treasured Relationships (premiere)

Folk artist Emily Keener's "Boats" offers a warm look back on the road traveled so far—a heartening reflection for our troubled times.


Paul Weller - "Earth Beat" (Singles Going Steady)

Paul Weller's singular modes as a soul man, guitar hero, and techno devotee converge into a blissful jam about hope for the earth on "Earth Beat".


On Point and Click Adventure Games with Creator Joel Staaf Hästö

Point and click adventure games, says Kathy Rain and Whispers of a Machine creator Joel Staaf Hästö, hit a "sweet spot" between puzzles that exercise logical thinking and stories that stimulate emotions.

Collapse Expand Reviews
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.