The Melvins remain, after thirty years, part of the bedrock of underground alternative music. The steadfast genre-denial and complete inability to keep still of King Buzzo ensures that The Melvins will always be an entity unto themselves. For “Tres Cabrones,” (literally ‘three goats’ but in slang ‘three assholes’ in Spanish,) as if to accentuate the point, there’s a credit in the liner notes for someone playing a toy piano. With that reinforcing every belief about the eccentricity of The Melvins, “Tres Cabrones” rolls on.
It doesn’t take long for The Melvins to be The Melvins, either. Not too far into the record, we’re greeted with one of several ridiculous covers, a hackneyed mocking of “Tie My Pecker to a Tree,” which as an aside, didn’t need a lot of mocking as it was. This ultimately rolls into several others, highlighted by Melvins-ized versions of old standards like “99 Bottles of Beer” and “In the Army Now.” The lyrics of both are highly customized and both dissolve into stylized send-ups. (Admittedly, I feel like I’m going to hear the chant of ‘beer beer beer beer beer beer beer beer’ in several advertising campaigns.)
As far as the actual bulk of the album, the songs are all graced with the typical Melvins indiscipline. The cut “I Told You I Was Crazy” is spiraled with strange sounds, an off-kilter rhythm and the chanting of King Buzzo. There’s also a tribute of sorts to Walter Kronkite (which is actually a cover of an old song by The Lewd,) which aside from being an odd material selection, is a fairly tuneful and well-adapted song.
King Buzzo talked a lot about reuniting The Melvins with original member Mike Dillard and writing songs that played to the strengths of that lineup. As far as that’s concerned “Tres Cabrones” plays well to The Melvins of old, reminding listeners of the raw, scatterbrained narrative of “Ozma” or “Gluey Porch Treatments.” The move from drums to bass by Dale Crover seems to have had no overtly negative effects on the band, and his playing on the thrumming intro of “American Cow” is certainly capable enough.
While what follows comes with the understanding that the sentiment is probably anti-everything-Melvins, “Tres Cabrones” could use some maturity, or at least a greater sense of refinement. While a certain amount of nonsense has always worked for this band, S.O.D and the Dead Kennedys, “Tres Cabrones” is overloaded with it, to the point that it’s hard to determine how seriously Buzzo took this effort. After all, The Melvins also have written teeth-grinding classics like “Revolve.” By comparison, “Tres Cabrones” feels incomplete. It’s fine to try and push the edge of common taste, which they’ve done successfully for three decades. Yet, this effort lacks the secret, low-brow, joke-is-on-everyone artistry of those past mainstays.
“Tres Cabrones” is another Melvins album, for better or worse. That’s fine, but given that this band lives on the edge and has exhibited some mastery in the past, it’s too bad that ‘another Melvins album’ is all this is.