Founding drummer Mike Dillard left the Melvins before the now-legendary band had released a single LP. Thirty years later, guitarist Buzz Osborne and drummer Dale Crover have brought Dillard back into the fold for Tres Cabrones, with Crover moving over to the bass (an instrument he had played as a teenager in Kurt Cobain’s pre-Nirvana band, Fecal Matter). Listening to the Melvins’ 22nd studio album, it’s as if it’s still 1983, both because the trio sounds as if they never left the garage and because of their adolescent zeal and sense of humor. But, this isn’t just a few middle-aged dudes trying to relive their teenaged years — at least not entirely. Tres Cabrones is yet another example of the Melvins’ mischievous musical enthusiasm and ability to triumph over the rock star flare-outs, reunion cash-grabs, and stale maturity that have plagued other veterans of the Seattle scene.
Dillard gets the honor of producing the very first sounds of the record as he kicks a few quick beats into “Dr. Mule”, a cheeky riffer made monstrous by multilayered wild man vocals and a few properly placed synth buzzes. Lead single “American Cow” oozes in, Crover’s sludgy bass locking into place as Osborne details how “I was stoned when I was seven/ I let it burn my brain.” That burning might have something to do with the next track, “Tie My Pecker To A Tree”, a goofy bit of juvenile comedy previously performed by Cheech & Chong, where triangle clinks recall spittoons and hyperventilating backing vocals provide some rhythmic momentum. Tres Cabrones also features the schoolyard rhyme of “You’re In The Army Now” and an honest to god take on “99 Bottles of Beer” (though they only get through maybe a bottle and a half before deciding to just chant the word beer over, and over, and over again).
These light excursions make tracks like the smirkingly evil punk jam “Stick ‘Em Up Bitch” that much more appealing, both providing the change of pace and making it clear that the Melvins are having fun and are entirely self-aware. In a sense, Tres Cabrones is the debut of the Melvins of old, but it’s also a great indication of the good that comes from Crover and Osborne’s infinitely impish desire to mix things up.
Essential Tracks: “Dr. Mule”, “American Cow”