Preconceived notions are a funny thing. Let’s take the new Melvins record A Walk with Love and Death as a case study. When I saw that the Melvins had a new record, I took notice. My first encounter with the band was back in 1992 when Spin Magazine did an article on Grunge. I think they described the Melvins as “so heavy they solidify upon contact with air.” I was like, “I gotta check that out.” On vacation at the time in LA, I popped into a record store and proceeded to buy the only Melvins offering they had. 10 Songs. It rocked my world. I considered myself a fan ever since. I’ve seen them many times. I attended their performance of Houdini in its entirety solo as I couldn’t scare up anyone to go with me. I know the Melvins. Bullhead, Stoner Witch, Houdini, Ozma, Stag, Nude with Boots, (A) Senile Animal. I’ll tell anyone that asks, that for my money, the best rock and roll song ever written is Revolve. They continue to provide for those that prefer their punk rock with a heavy side of sludge. The last album of theirs that I had on heavy rotation was Hold it in. I mean come on!! How can you not embrace the product of ½ Melvins, ½ Butthole Surfers? It’s a whole mess of fun. So when I took a look at this new offering, A Walk with Love and Death, a few things came to mind. The cover art looked really cool, definitely a good start, it looked like Melvins for the 21st century. Next I checked the track listing. Interesting. Nine songs apparently inspired by (Death) and fourteen songs apparently inspired by (Love). Got it; A walk with Love and Death. The Melvins are taking a deep dive here into two broad and timeless concepts!! My mind: “ I like it!! The Death songs are going to be some of the heaviest gnarliest shit they’ve ever done. And the love stuff, maybe they’ll pull out something heartfelt, lilting, Buzz can make a guitar groan, chirp, and squeal, I want to know what Love sounds like through that goop filter. I can’t wait to hear it!! It will be the Melvins’ Magnum Opus!!”
My hope that there was a beautiful symbiosis between Love and Death with the common denominator being The Melvins went up in flames on my very first listen. I was right about the fact that AWWLAD has two distinct sections; and they must be viewed as such; which will not be hard. Let’s tackle Death first. For all practical purposes, Death is the Melvins album. Death consists of 9 tracks, traditional offerings put forth as faithfully Melvins. Song one, Black Heath, proves an able opener; although I didn’t catch anything that suggested (Death). Sober-delic picks up where BH leaves off, looming soundscapes, extended noodlings, what you expect from the Melvins these days. SD pays off with a solid hook you can latch on to, and a vocal style that might remind die-hards of Stoner Witch or Houdini. For my money, this is the standout track on the album. Euthanasia slams the listener next and once again, the Melvins Faithful are rewarded with power chords, tribal beats, and a traditional Buzz vocal. What’s Wrong with You slams on the breaks and timewarps into 90s pop. Anna Waronker drops in to assist on vox. You might know her as the lead singer of that Dog, or as Steven McDonald’s (Melvins current bassist) wife. Edgar the Elephant and Flaming Creature rumble in next to little fanfare. Christ Hammer delivers some 70s harmonies and a cleaner crisper production that allows the Melvins to shine in a new light. Cactus Party is a jumpy little number featuring Teri Gender Bender of Le Butcherettes. Cardboa Negro closes things out with a classic Melvins vibe that devolves into cacophony; a harbinger of what’s to come.
The love side. Full disclosure. This is the soundtrack for a movie by Jesse Niemenen called, oddly enough, “A Walk with Love and Death.” But don’t expect The Wall or The Soft Bulletin. There should be some kind of reward for anyone that listens to the entirety of Love without turning it off. Something I was close to doing many times, but I kept waiting for some smidgen of a song or anything indicating that the Melvins were involved in any way. There were few. I wanted to give a fair and unbiased account of the entire album, so it is for you, faithful reader, that I subjected myself to the maddening cacophony that is Love. The only way it would merit a second listen is if you are a masochist or a heavy drug user.
To sum it all up, if you stick with the (Death) tracks you have a solid Melvins record. No need to mess with the (Love) section. I give (Death) 3.5 stars. The inclusion of (Love) drags the overall rating down to 3. Draw your own philosophical conclusion.