There has been so many gimmicky Melvins lineup variations over the last decade that the gimmicks have started piling on themselves. Pinkus Abortion Technician features two bass players, Steven McDonald and Jeff Pinkus, making this feel not only like a semi-sequel to 2016’s Basses Loaded but also a mirror to the Big Business era’s two-drummer setup. The Butthole Surfers influence merely hinted at on 2014’s Hold It In is also at full force if the parody title and a few choice cover songs are anything to go by.
While the Melvins seem confined to variations of the same bright, somewhat sludgy quirk rock regardless of the musicians involved, this album does have a more palatable presentation than the last couple outings. It has a laidback style reminiscent of Freak Puke or even Stoner Witch with often subdued vocals and dynamic though often restrained guitars.
Though with this album’s gimmick in mind, the bass work isn’t as notable as it should be. You can certainly hear the bass throughout and the playing is solid enough, but it doesn’t sound like more than one person playing. There are spots for bass solos and occasional harmonizing, but it feels more like surround sound than two basses playing off one another. Basses Loaded had a similar problem with being unable to tell bass players apart but it’s especially unfortunate here as the dual drummer format was what made albums like A Senile Animal so refreshing at the time.
The cover to original song ratio on this album is also concerning, especially since there are only eight tracks on here, but fortunately all the tracks are around the same quality. I’m not sure if the opening “Stop Moving to Florida” medley’s transition is really that natural but both sides are well performed. The grunged up take on yet another Beatles cover is fun enough, and “Graveyard” rides the creepy momentum set up by “Prenup Butter.” As far as originals go, “Don’t Forget to Breathe” has a smooth doomy swing while “Flamboyant Duck” recalls Stag’s more alt rock moments.
Pinkus Abortion Technician may be more cohesive than the last couple Melvins albums, but it also highlights the fact that these personnel shakeups just aren’t that exciting anymore. Past collaborations like Freak Puke and Pigs of the Roman Empire saw the band adapting their style to an unusual vision, but albums like this just see the band using different lineups to disguise the sameish quasi-songs. Diehards will heartily enjoy this album and the band will do whatever it wants regardless, but I’d love to see Buzz, Dale, and Steven take a couple extra years to make something truly special. Maybe their next experiment could be to see what they should do instead of what they can do…
“Don’t Forget to Breathe”