Good Old-Fashioned Sludgy Fun
For 16 years, the collaboration between sludge rock legends, The Melvins, and vocalist Mike Kunka, of noise-rock band godheadSilo, has been sitting idly by on a dark, dusty shelf somewhere in Subpop Records (are Chinese Democracy jokes out of style now?) Presumably, it must have been sitting next to a keg of fermenting swamp water and used motor oil, because this is a record that reverberates right through the deepest regions of the listener’s bowels and leaves a dark, sinking feeling right in their gut.
Three Men and a Baby is certainly an album that comes from a different era, and though that doomy sludge legacy still carries on with bands like Crowbar and Eyehategod, it’s a sound that might be lost on younger listeners who weren’t entrenched in that era. Mike & The Melvins would have fit perfectly into the ‘90s, where their marriage of grunge, heavy southern sludge and general quirky weirdness would have captivated grunge fans, crust punks, and metalheads alike. From a contemporary angle, the sound can feel a bit antiquated, and maybe even too grimy for an age where high production values are affordable to even the brokest of musicians. This is an age where technology allows us to do so much with so little, but this is music that comes from a time where all that mattered was pushing out a sound that was raw, unfiltered and full of soul.
This record is ultimately meant for an older crowd of music fans who still remember the glory days where the best music sometimes made you feel like you needed a cold shower after listening to it. Right from the opening of the album, the oozy down-tuned guitar tone washes right over you like warm molasses over crusty French toast. It’s a bit of a grimy feeling, but the good kind of grimy, like getting a little too drunk on a camping trip and playing naked in the mud.
Though the record comes with some good old-fashioned doomy fun, it may not be one that stands the test of time. The album unfortunately suffers when it comes down to repeat listens. No track on the record really seems to stand out from the rest or provide anything fresh. That isn’t to say the songs aren’t without their own character, but there’s nothing new or incredibly memorable that makes it worth going back to after the first couple of listens.
This is an unfortunate issue that plagues music that has a lot of chaotic grittiness, whether it be sludge, grind, noise, or otherwise. The band has to work twice as hard to make the listener want to come back to the record, because in so much chaos and down-tuned muddiness it can be easy for the songs to blend together into one giant, unholy mass where no track is able to stand out on its own. Many listeners will eventually set the record aside after a few listens and never come back to it, leaving only the die-hard fans still invested.
That being said though, Three Men and a Baby does exactly what it set out to accomplish, which is to bring The Melvins’ signature brand of sludge to a collaborative setting. It may not be their best, but it’s still worth checking out.