MELVINS – Bullhead (1991)

May 3rd, 1991, MELVINS released their third studio album Bullhead, on Boner Records. Recorded in 1990, and released on May 3rd, 1991, Bullhead is an all-out sonic assault. Not only is this the album that heralded a significant refinement of (the) Melvins’ sound, but it’s also the album that kicks off the 90s as it was to continue, HEAVY.

Bullhead found (the) Melvins stretching out a bit more than on previous releases. With gargantuan, lava-flow, slugging riffs. Cascading feedback, sludge and noise. Bullhead is an exhilarating ride, and one unique to (the) Melvins experience. And yet, no matter how pummelling the experience gets, Melvins never lose sight of the core reason you find yourself hypnotically engaged to every note. The songs.

No one sounds like (the) Melvins. And certainly in 1991, no one came close. Theirs is a truly unique approach to rock & roll. Opening track “Boris” was, up to that point, the band’s longest recorded song. At nearly ten minutes, it’s a monolithic slab of molten riffage. Equally memorable and epic, it oozes weight. By the song’s end it feels like you’ve just spent ten minutes locked in a sensory deprivation tank, floating in the bongwater of a million wasted potheads.

“Anaconda,” the shortest song on the record, at just under two-and-a-half minutes, is a scorcher. “Ligature,” in stark contrast, is another slower track, punctuated by stabbing drums and a herky jerky riff. Crover’s use of toms to keep time throughout the track, rather than a more traditional ride cymbal or hi-hat, give it a off kilter feel. Like the thud of a very drunk man, slowly rolling down a hill.

“It’s Shoved” is a Grade A, stellar riff. So stellar in fact, Kurt Cobain stole it wholesale, note for note, for Nirvana’s Milk It, from In Utero. “Zodiac” drags the listener in another direction, opening with a heavily fuzzed out riff. This song is a Melvins classic, and has been covered by the likes of Brutal Truth, Strapping Young Lad, and Sleep.

In a discography as varied, vast and valuable as (the) Melvins, Bullhead is a gem. Despite its obvious heaviness, its blatant weirdness and its admirable uniqueness, Bullhead is extremely accessible, without ever being mainstream. No other band on earth, but (the) Melvins could straddle those precipices without losing their footing.

In hindsight, we now know they thrive in these settings. Bullhead set the tone for the decade to come. The vocals and guitar attack of King Buzzo, the bass of Lori Black and the stupendous drumming of Dale Crover wrote the road map for heavy, weird and infectious rock n roll in the 90’s