In 2006, Melvins found themselves in the now-familiar position of being without a bassist. Mainstays King Buzzo and Dale Crover went on the prowl, and came back with a new recruit named Jared Warren, a member of two-man sludge band Big Business. Melvins didn't stop there though: Big Business drummer Coady Willis was also invited to join. This Big Business/Melvins merger made the new lineup as follows:
King Buzzo: lead vocals, guitar
Dale Crover: drums
Jared Warren: bass
Coady Willis: drums
Having two drummers is a little bit strange, but it is the Melvins, after all. For live shows, both drumkits are set up next to each other and played in synch, and Jared Warren has grown his hair out into an impressive imitation of the classic King Buzzo afro. Back with a full roster again, they went into the studio and recorded an album: (A) Senile Animal.
It starts out strong and loud with the first track, "The Talking Horse". The song crashes into existence, with a dirty crunching bass and squeaky guitar noise, and when the vocals hit, they hit hard. Buzzo is no stranger to doubletracked vocals, but this is beyond that. All the band members are credited with vocal contributions, and (A) Senile Animal has a weird choral style throughout it that would have floundered with most other bands. At times the vocals cross the line and sound a little cheesy, but the technique is generally effective at getting the wild power boost they're after. "The Talking Horse" shows off this new style better than any other song, and is probably the best song on the album.
"Blood Witch" is slow, and not in a droning way. It stutters severely, sounding awkward and arrhythmic, but has a certain charm to it. "Civilized Worm" is the opposite of all those Melvins songs that aren't very heavy but somehow sound like they are. It's a pop song, really, but far lower and more distorted than you would ever hear on a Top 40 station.
"A History of Drunks" is another album highlight. It chugs along in a surprisingly infectious beat, and occasionally dips into something almost like surf rock. Unfortunately, it's over in two and a half minutes; in fact, the majority of songs on the album are either about two or six and a half minutes long. The whole thing clocks in at 41 minutes, so it's not too long or too short, but some of the individual songs are.
The next three are faster, and angrier. On "Rat Faced Granny" the vocals become gruff, growly even, though the multitracking effect is still in use. "The Hawk" sounds a lot like it could be part of the preceding song, and for a long time I thought it was. This brings up one of the major reasons Melvins is an amazing band. Their sound is simple but well-defined, and they're quite prolific, but even after twenty-five years they still manage to explore new land without straying too far from their roots.
"You've Never Been Right" is a quick-paced diversion that isn't too special. I wouldn't label it as filler, but the rest of the album is quite good and as a result make the mediocre songs look bad. It isn't one of the many places where this album shines. "A History of Bad Men", however, is. Unfortunately, it is one of the few examples of self-plagiarism that I was claiming is so rare in the Melvins body of work. The main guitar riff sounds nearly identical to the one in the song "Night Goat", on 1994's Houdini. "Night Goat" being a fan favourite, this fact was not overlooked by listeners. I'm personally fine with it. The vocals are different enough to distance the songs, and as I said before, "Night Goat" is very popular. I can't think of a better song to accidentally redo.
"The Mechanical Bride" signals the end. It's got the same plodding stutter that characterized "Blood Witch", with the same echoing wails that permeate the whole album. Here the vocals aren't as biting or powerful as before, but rather float along like the distant moans of ghosts. The whole song continues in the same vein as it starts, with the dramatic pounding of the guitar and bass contrasting the haunting, disembodied voice. The final track, "A Vast Filthy Prison", is a bit similar. The bass here is totally clean, and the guitar is nearly so. Slow and creepy, the song inches along with singing like a disturbing whispered lullaby. It's not unusual for the Melvins to do a softer song like this one, and "The Mechanical Bride" provides a flawless segue from the frantic rampage earlier on into a gentle glide and full stop.
1. The Talking Horse (2:41)
2. Blood Witch (2:45)
3. Civilized Worm (5:57)
4. A History of Drunks (2:20)
5. Rat Faced Granny (2:41)
6. The Hawk (2:35)
7. You've Never Been Right (2:30)
8. A History of Bad Men (6:43)
9. The Mechanical Bride (6:26)
10. A Vast Filthy Prison (6:44)
(A) Senile Animal is definitely a Melvins album (for what that's worth), and it's one of the heavier ones, though it doesn't approach Bullhead or Lysol. It's unique in that the vocals are what makes it sound heavy this time, not the trademark lethargic guitar riffing. They've taken a new approach to a style they invented, and it succeeded. After 1999's The Bootlicker and 2000's The Crybaby, a bit of heavy Melvins was certainly welcome, and (A) Senile Animal delivers it.
(A) Senile Animal - the Melvins - 2006 - Ipecac