Whatever album post-Dead Kennedys I have received that has been released by Jello Biafra showcases extremely long songs which sometimes push my patience (Timor Circus, I’m looking at you specifically). Jello has given up the punk fury of the past and moved into a way more kosher with rock and metal, all while still keeping the tremendous political content of the past. The first track on “Never Breathe” showcases memorable guitar lines and the trademark shrill Biafra vocals, spread out around five minutes. Moving forward to “McGruff the Crime Dog”, the Melvins put the track firmly into an eighties state of mine, tiptoeing the line between metal and cheeseball rock. The riffs, sounding like they are from the earliest Motley Crue album are completely at odds with the electric, bouncy bass line that is laid down throughout the track. Getting into a tremendously groovy riff with “Yuppie Cadillac”, the Melvins trade guitar licks to push the track harder, faster, and most importantly, to higher and higher levels of intensity.
Starting out “Islamic Bomb” with a drum beat that sounds directly taken from “Istanbul (Not Constantinople) and a guitar line that is virtually the one from “Tehran” from The Offspring, The Melvins create a faux-Middle Eastern feel to the track. Even though some of the music on “Never Breathe” begins to mesh together with tracks around it, the lyrics on the disc are some of the finest, most-sharply written insights to be expressed in the leadership of Herr Bush: “May I search your bags? You have randomly been selected / got a funny name and you look the part” The slower tempo of “Caped Crusader” is a direct nod for The Melvins back to the halcyon days of their influences: the guitar lines on the tracks will remind listeners of the best in 70s rock: Ted Nugent, Bob Segar, and UFO all come to mind.
Continuing on the more introspective bent with “Enchanted Thoughtfist”, both music and lyrics seem to sync up perfectly, only after 3/4ths of the disc has past. When Jello tells the audience to “Don’t just question authority – Question everything”, The Melvins are challenging the authority of inertia – to completely change their sound on this disc, they are giving a big fuck-you to those individuals who expect 8 tracks that are indistinguishable from each other. Both parties on the disc have been doing music for longer than many listeners have been born, and they show no signs of stopping.
Top Tracks: Dawn of the Locusts, The Lighter Side of Global Terrorism
Jello Biafra with the Melvins – Never Breathe What You Can’t See / 2004 Alternative Tentacles / 8 Tracks / http://www.alternativetentacles.com / Reviewed 25 January 2005