I had no idea this was a thing, but apparently Scion has a whole kind of media…thing…going on. It took me a while to get this, as far as I have, so I’m going to step through it a little more slowly. Scion, the car company that Ira Glass dispassionately bills as being for “today’s connected youth” on This American Life, cares so much about this particular brand strategy, that they have Scion Audio Visual where you can download free music unavailable elsewhere, watch videos, …screw it, I don’t even really know what you can do there. But one of the things you can do there is get Melvins’ new five song EP, The Bulls & The Bees, for free, and that’s the only way you can get it.
So this is basically exactly what you would expect a free Melvins EP released in 2012 by a car company to be. It’s pretty awesome, with tons of sludgy riffs, but also feels somewhat uninspired and quickly tossed off, like it probably contains the rejects from their upcoming full-length release. The band also seems to feel free to experiment in ways they haven’t before. Not in ways they haven’t felt free to experiment before, because there’s basically no experimentation that would turn these guys off, but just in ways they haven’t actually experimented before. For the most part, the collection is more rock/song-oriented than their early releases, as they’ve been wont to do recently. However, the middle features sustained industrial sounds, mystically chanted vocals, and either strings of synths that sound like strings.
All of which is very good, but little of which feels like it lives up to the quality Melvins have set. That’s a high bar, to be sure; it just feels like these are maybe still a bit in the demo stage, with some craft left to be applied to the songwriting before they’re truly ready to have Melvins’ name stamped on them.
- The War On Wisdom – Starts with some bad sound but then comes in huge. You’d think I’d get tired of this style, but man do they rock it so hard. I think this may be the best one here. Certainly the most immediately striking.
- We Are Doomed – Slower. Doomier. Nice soaring guitar over sludge doom base.
- Friends Before Larry – Spacey. Sounds like there are even keys in there. Metallic sounds that build into a pretty heavy riff for the first few minutes that then fades back into distorted, high, faint vocals and miscellaneous new sound effects. Gets tiresome over the last half-minute or so.
- A Really Long Wait – Could be like Meddle-era Pink Floyd. There are strings here, I think. A violin and cello, or else that’s a synth. No drums except for a building cymbal effect. No traditionally played guitar though there do seem to be some feedback effects. Vocals are slow, relatively high, though not falsetto, kind of like a spooky monk chant. Very non-Melvins. Very experimental for them, and given their propensity to experiment, that’s saying a lot. These last three songs have all blended together…which my phone did gapless playback.
- National Hamster – This is good.