The Melvins Shouldn’t Have Carried Pinkus Abortion Technician to Term

words fae sean hannah (@Shun_Handsome)rating 3

Locust Abortion Technician is the name of a seminal album by The Butthole Surfers. Jeff Pinkus plays bass on the record. These days, he plays with Montesano metal outfit The Melvins. He’s the namesake of their latest offering Pinkus Abortion Technician. This is all the background information you’ll need for the album.

Pinkus begins with a litmus test to the audience to determine just how much they’ll put up with. Stop Moving to Florida is a hybrid of Stop by AOR mainstays The James Gang and The SurfersMoving to Florida—the pairing seems ironic on paper, but both covers are played with what can be argued as sincerity and reverence. Still, the cover-by-numbers way The Melvins play each song (with little artistic license and even less edge) forces the listener to decide for him or herself if the album’s inaugural one-two punch really is a deferential rendition of two classic bands’ deeper cuts or just a lark. At any rate, neither cover surpasses its original.

The Melvins, after three decades of genre hopscotching, have landed on Blues/Southern Rock as their M.O. here on Pinkus. It’s in the bottom heavy chug of the instructional dirge Don’t Forget to Breathe and the slide guitar on the ridiculously titled Prenup Butter. The genre’s simple swagger suits the band’s flair for dumb-rock riffing and hardass guitar distortion, but given how heavily vocalist King Buzzo leans into eccentricity for the record, Pinkus Abortion Technician sounds more like a novelty album than a concerted effort by the sludge metal veterans.

Here, Buzzo delivers his melodies like Alice Cooper doing a parody of Alice Cooper: strangely accented vowels inflate the middles of his words on the aforementioned Prenup, gossamer vocals dust the grungy hoedown of Flamboyant Duck, and throaty howls turn Break Bread into a shock rock misfire. In the case of metal, showmanship is paramount (well, that and technical prowess), but when the band straddle the line between pastiche and seriousness so precariously, the whole album turns into a balance scale for the audience, forcing them to determine which song will eventually tip that scale to one side or the other. If the number of covers on the album is any indication (three out of eight songs), then maybe PAT actually is a bit of lighter fare just to tide fans over until the next big release.

Pinkus sounds more than anything else like it was culled together from songs that tested through the roof while on tour. The two Butthole Surfers interpretations no doubt pleased audiences who were already thrilled to see Pinkus splitting bass duties with Steven McDonald on stage. When played live, I Want to Hold Your Hand (yes, that I Want to Hold Your Hand) must have gotten some real mileage out of the meager guitar solo that wound up on the studio version. Unfortunately, much of the electricity of these live performances seems to have been lost during the recording process. This isn’t to say that there aren’t excitable moments on the album—the thrashing speed of Embrace the Rub eventually wins out over its outright strangeness, and the cacophony vocals on closer Graveyard show that the band haven’t lost their knack for piss and vinegar metal—but Technician ultimately proves more of a slog than anything else.

The cover art for the album was created by Mackie Osborne, Buzzo’s wife and frequent collaborator, who’s designed albums in the past for the likes of The Circle Jerks, Tool, and Social Distortion. She’s responsible for the Jerks’ iconic artwork on Group Sex and Wild in the Streets. But here on Pinkus Abortion Technician, the sinister, grinning mutt with a dismembered finger in its mouth and a vest that reads “GODDAM RIGHT I’M A SERVICE DOG” feels quaint. It’s like if Garfield creator Jim Davis were asked to design an album cover for a metal band. The artwork, unlike that dog, but sadly much like the music, feels toothless. The visceral moments are few and far between, resulting in a middling album by a legendary group.