I believe it was evolutionist and troublemaker Thomas Huxley who, in June 1860, remarked to the Anglican Archbishop of Oxford University that he could sit six monkeys at six typewriters while The Melvins' new record played ... and determine which monkeys were music critics. The critic-monkeys would inevitably type some variation on the words "sludgetastic" and "Sabbath-y goodness" in their first two paragraphs.
The other monkeys would, of course, write Hamlet.
"There's a lot of people who think we're nothing more than a two-mile-an-hour Black Sabbath train to nowhere," says Buzz Osborne, a.k.a. King Buzzo. "There's some of that, but 19 albums? I don't think there'd be a single person interested in us if all we'd done were the two-mile-an-hour Sabbath tunes. But if you do a Google search on The Melvins, it's almost inevitable."
And he's right, whether it's reviews of their earliest records or their latest, A Senile Mind, the first to feature the new two-drummer lineup. But there's a reason Trouser Press labeled them the "inimitable steamrolling overlords of the slow-flowing magma." When The Melvins emerged back in the '80s (from what some critic somewhere has no doubt called the Black Tar Pits of Aberdeen, Wash.), the underground wasn't exactly overflowing with bands whose music let you bang your head in a slow-motion metal salute.
But as much as they may have been heavy and sludgy and scary the way those early Sabbath records were, The Melvins' sound was ultimately more experimental, informed as much by prog and punk as by "War Pigs."
"We love heavy metal," says Osborne. "I love the rebellious nature of the whole thing. But I don't love everything about it. And I don't love everything about punk, which to me is not buying your clothes at Hot Topic and listening to bands sing 'whoah whoah whoah,' all sounding exactly like Bad Religion."
"I don't get it," he adds. "We're as punk rock as they come, and those people aren't gonna like our band, so where do we fit in?"
The answer is, you don't. But maybe that's a good thing. After 20 years and an infinite number of bassists, they still sound like nothing so much as The Melvins.