The Melvins - Hold It In (4 stars)

Invigorating change in band line up ensures heavy metal record of playful and caustic precision

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The Melvins: Hold It In

(Ipecac)

Now in their fourth decade, change remains the only constant in Casa de las Melvins. Most recent bassist Jared Warren and second drummer Coady Willis are out, at least temporarily, while Jeff Pinkus and Paul Leary (both of the Butthole Surfers) are press-ganged into service on bass and second guitar, respectively. In the grand tradition of portmanteau partnerships, à la Jedward and Brangelina, this iteration shall be known as Buttvins. Or possibly the Melholes.

Generally speaking, Melvins’ albums fall into two categories: obsessively cohesive tomes (Lysol, The Maggot, The Bootlicker, Bullhead) and disparate genre-jumping patchworks that sound like a dozen alternate universe versions of Buzz & co colliding in an inter-dimensional wormhole. Hold It In is one of the latter. Of course, there are the malevolent juggernauts of caustic bile that civilians traditionally associate with this band. But there’s also ‘You Can Make Me Wait’s bubble-soft, melancholy indie-pop, with vocals filtered through the drowning robot effect favoured by Barry Burns. There’s the sleazy glam-punk of ‘Eyes On You’, an addictively fizzy and boisterous lost classic of turquoise eyeshadow and bovver boots. And there’s rollicking rockabilly, a muscular Kiss homage, woozy abstract confusion, and brazen power-pop laced with straightforward-sounding but almost impossibly knotty transitions. It peaks with ‘The Bunk Up’ – twitchy, wild-eyed prog-metal that glides through a surprisingly mellifluous midsection into a vast ritual of riff.

Despite the pleasingly wayward diversity on offer, there is a coherent thread running through this album – and it’s Paul Leary. His disorienting psychedelic washes and idiosyncratically wobbly filth are smeared everywhere, bringing a debauched narcotic fluidity to a band that excels at caustic precision.

In its breadth and playfulness, Hold It In is a spiritual cousin to Stag, Nude with Boots and even Houdini. Where it ranks in their discography is another matter – suffice to say, it’s an invigorating and surprising regeneration of a band that, even 24 studio albums in (or thereabouts), wasn’t even close to needing it.

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