Music Reviews
The Melvins

The Melvins

Tarantula Heart

Ipecac Recordings

In the summer of 1986 while opening for Rich Kids on LSD, Buzz Osbourne steps up to the mic and declares, “We’re the Melvins, and we’re here to destroy punk rock.” It would have been hard to predict that nearly forty years later, punk rock has since imploded and reformed several times over. Kingdoms rise and kingdoms fall, whereas The Melvins remain a constant.

Tarantula Heart is the Melvins’ 27th studio album and a most recent crescendo in an unstoppable career trajectory.

After decades of a steady rotation of bass players, for the past eight or so years, Steven Shane McDonald has provided a fresh and steady component to the band’s repertoire. Now he is well-integrated enough to reap benefits, giving this metamorphic stage of The Melvins’ life cycle a sudden and reliable burst of energy and speed it needs and exploits. He is probably the only one capable and situated to penetrate, offset, and complement the backbone duopoly of “The Osbourne-Crover Anti-Life Sound Equation.”

Based upon this as well as long-time collaborator Toshi Kasai’s instinctive engineering, the Melvins take a more deconstructive approach. Tarantula Heart abandons the more typical workman-like approach of King Buzzo and Co. writing formal songs and then intently honing results in studios. The Melvins are opting for the naturalism and spontaneity of Osbourne-McDonald jam sessions that are then put through some post-production disassembly and reassembly, then have their critical components re-recorded as songs boiled down to their molten core. The result is something both essential and new, while also remaining true to The Melvins’ sludge-heavy nature.

Leaning into their capabilities and potential for film scores, Tarantula Heart opens idiosyncratically by putting a side-two track first with “Pain Equals Funny.” “Pain Equals Energy” harkens back to more ethereally prone releases, such as 2017’s A Walk with Love and Death or more infamously 1992’s Lysol (among others). The first half of Tarantula Heart is both a primeval epoch that builds, crawls, trudges, peaks, and cascades in a single track. Coupled with Buzz’s guttural bellows, it has all the makings of a low-fantasy barbarianism.

The second half of Tarantula Heart makes up for any potential sense of pacing lost with four fast-moving, crunching tracks that validate 40 years of experience, technique, influence, reflection, and raw capability.

The Melvins haven’t lost a step. They remain a force of nature in perpetual rock steady forward movement. You can bet against the Melvins and argue this isn’t the best lineup or this isn’t a band at their peak, but you would be wrong.

The Melvins


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