Review: Melvins – The Bulls & The Bees

We take a closer look at the new free collection from the immortal Melvins.

Iann Robinsonby Iann Robinson

So the Melvins have released a free digital download EP called The Bulls & The Bees. It’s a five-song blast of what the Melvins do best, featuring the core band and additional player Jared Warren (no second drummer Coady Willis). So how is the new EP? Well, it’s pretty damn good. I mean, seriously, this is the Melvins so on their worst day the jams will rip faces off. Is it breaking new ground and shitting out fantastic diaries of the future of music? Nope, that will probably happen with Freak Puke, the June 5th Melvins release featuring Melvins Lite. What’s Melvins Lite you ask? It’s a line up featuring only Buzzo, Dale Crover and Trevor Dunn. I’ll bring that critical eye to you when Freak Puke is drops. Right now lets dig upon The Bulls & The Bees.

Kicking off the EP is “War On Wisdom”, which follows a fairly standard Melvins vibe. Groovy drums intro the song before the massive riff starts caving in skulls. With all their legend of being kooky and doing nutty things, people forget that Melvins are riff monsters. “War On Wisdom” is a sludge riff that fits perfectly within Buzzo’s blender guitar mix of heavy metal and seventies rock, with just a dash of Black Flag. The vocals on the tune are really catchy, and give “War On Wisdom” a sing along feel.

“We Are Doomed” is a seven-minute opus that slows things down to a crawl. This is a drum intro all the way, though guitars do ring out. The riff is a simple one that stops long enough for drum fills to take over the empty space. When the groove comes in it’s a spacey blues feel, like Kiss meets The Phantom Of Lightin’ Hopkins. Again Buzzo presents a vocal line that’s as catchy as it is cryptic. What is Buzzo saying? No idea. Who cares? It sounds really cool over the riff. At seven-minutes, “We Are Doomed” is a tune for true Melvins lovers. You have to be down with their tangent guitar parts and off-time drums or by the fifth minute you’ll want to burn your house down. I loved every second of it, but it may not rock everybody.

Ever wonder what starting a song with the sounds of a haunted house meeting far off traffic would be like? Wonder no more because the first minute of “Friends Before Larry” is just that. This track has more of the weirdness the Melvins have to come to represent. The guitars swirl around in a vortex of heaviness while the drums alter between beats and rolls. Nothing comes together into a uniform sound, which is probably how the band wanted it. This is one of those jams where rocking is put on the back burner for weird guitar tones and odd time signatures.

“A Really Long Wait” is the track that will separate Melvins fans from those waiting around for them to record Houdini 2.  There is no music here at all, just a weird soundscape that comes across like dolphins recorded during the darkest part of the night. Laying over that are haunting vocals that remind me of something Damien from the Omen would have requested for his wedding. Nothing happens for the entire three minutes except melancholy, ambient tones and more lush vocals. If this were a horror movie people would celebrate with mass orgasms of champagne and money. However, being in the middle of a rock record might discourage at the less educated Melvins fan.

Fear not rockers, the Melvins end The Bulls & The Bees with a get down boogie rocker. “National Hamster”, which apparently isn’t about Richard Gere, booms with big guitar riffs and huge drums. Remember what I said about Melvins being riff monsters? That ideas comes across in spades here. Vocally Buzzo returns to a more comfortable Melvins style, which works well wrapped in the burrito of Melvins rock.

All in all The Bulls & The Bees is a solid entry. Is it the best thing the Melvins has ever done? No. Not by a long shot. Does it push any envelopes or set musical standards on their ear? Nope, that’ll probably happen with Freak Puke. What The Bulls & The Bees does is give us some fresh Melvins jams to stimulate our ears until the full-length hits. For all those who hate or bitch on this record, don’t forget, it’s free.