Working with God

Melvins

Working with God

As a band with dozens and dozens of strange, catchy, and experimental releases under their collective belt—and an ever-shifting lineup beyond the core duo of guitarist/vocalist Buzz Osborne and drummer Dale Crover—the Melvins can always be relied upon to keep it interesting. Working With God is the second album from their “Melvins 1983” lineup—Osborne, Crover (on bass), and original drummer Mike Dillard—which recalls the band’s 1983 origins in rural Washington. In that sense, it’s very much a follow-up to 2013’s Tres Cabrones, which featured the same power trio. “I knew I wanted a title that had something ‘with God’ in it,” Osborne tells Apple Music. “Cursing With God, Killing With God, Joking With God—Working With God seemed to fit best.” Below, Osborne details the songs on this decidedly non-religious album.
I F**k Around “This came out of soundcheck. They’d go, ‘Can you do your vocal check?’ and I’d start in with ‘Round, round, fuck around, I fuck around,’ to the tune of the Beach Boys song. It always got a laugh out of people. And then we eventually thought we gotta record it. So I sat down and wrote lyrics for it. Melvins 1983 is where that kind of stuff really comes to light, because we all have the same kind of sense of humor, which my wife says is perpetually stuck in eighth grade. Which is true.”
Negative No No “I wrote these lyrics while driving around in the car, listening to the demo. What I'll do is I have my notebook with me and when I come upon something, I'll pull over and just write it out, right there on the side of the road. I do that all the time. You couldn’t work that way on public transpo. Sitting on the bus singing out loud is not really going to work. You’d be beaten up or considered insane, which is probably not far from the truth.”
Bouncing Rick “This was the nickname we had for our high school biology teacher. Me and Dillard had all kinds of names for people at the high school. This guy bounced around when he talked—I think it was out of nervousness—so we called him Bouncing Rick. But we’re the only ones who called him that. So as soon as I said, ‘Bouncing Rick,’ Dillard knew who I was talking about. I don’t know that the song is really about him, though. I think it would be more about the challenges of a second date.”
Caddy Daddy “People think this is a golf reference, but it’s actually not. It’s Cadillacs. I wouldn't write a song about a golf caddy—I've never had one. But I've never had a Cadillac, either. When I lived in San Francisco, I saw a guy walking through the Fillmore District with a baseball hat on that said ‘Caddy Daddy’ on it, and I wrote it down. That was probably 30 years ago, and I've had it ever since. But the song isn’t about that. It’s more about thinking you’re smarter than you really are.”
Brian, The Horse-Faced Goon “The first part is a song that we came up with a long time ago. We used to sing it exactly like that—‘Brian, The Horse-Faced Goon,’ trying to imitate Ethel Merman. So we’ve had that version for years and years. And then the second one is about a Florida kid shooting dope in a hurricane. Dale wrote the music for that one, which is the new song. The hardest part was figuring out how I was going to fit the phrase ‘Brian, The Horse-Faced Goon’ into the lyrics, which I did.”
Boy Mike “This might be one of my favorites. The way it started out and the way it ended up was tremendously different. And I really like the ending on that song—I think it's really fucking cool. I think it sounds really weird and creepy. I couldn't say exactly what that one's about, but Boy Mike is not a real person. At first I was thinking it could be about a microphone, but I don’t think it is. It’s one of those songs that ends up far surpassing your expectations. I love when that happens.”
F**k You “This is our Harry Nilsson cover, which was a no-brainer. His song was called ‘You’re Breakin’ My Heart.’ According to the documentary about him, he wrote it about his ex-wife. Nilsson was a strange cat—he never played live. This was a song that I've wanted to cover for a long time, and I changed the lyrics to be as offensive as possible. We really liked the beginning with us screaming, ‘Fuck you!’ so we decided to isolate that for the second song. If you take the two ‘Brian’ tracks, ‘Boy Mike,’ and the two ‘F**k Yous,’ it’s like a nice little EP in the middle of the album.”
The Great Good Place “I think this is Dale's favorite song on the record. I might be wrong, but I think the title is a reference to the freaks at Andy Warhol’s Factory who thought that they’d found a place where they could do whatever they wanted, but then Warhol ends up getting blasted. I might have had that in mind, but it’s not directly about that. And then there’s that saying along the lines of ‘If you let everyone in, you let in madness, too.’ So you’ve got to be more specific about your guest list.”
Hot Fish “The music for this one was written by Trevor Dunn, and I wrote the lyrics. We actually wrote this song for Flipper. We did a limited-edition EP with those guys playing on it, but we decided to redo the song and put it on this record. I can’t think of a band that has had a bigger impact on us than Flipper. The title comes from seeing them at a club in San Francisco in the ’80s called the Covered Wagon. In the back, there was a kitchen with a deep fryer. Those guys had this fish made out of metal that was about the size of a bowling ball. They’d drop it in the fryer until it was red hot and then throw water on it and carry it onstage screaming, ‘Hot fish! Hot fish!’ I never forgot that. The funny thing is, when I brought it up to those guys, they didn’t remember it.”
Hund “This is a song that I wrote for [Buzz and Dale’s side project] Crystal Fairy, but we never got to record it. So we revamped it and did it with Melvins 1983. It has some pretty hard guitar-playing on it, as far as the soloing goes—that's about as hard a guitar solo as I'll ever do. But the song is kind of a multifaceted nightmare—it's got a lot of parts to it. Mike and Dale did a really good job working this out.”
Goodnight Sweet Heart “We’ve been wanting to do this on an album forever. We used to do this song with the Big Business guys—we’d do it as the last song of the night. Then I met one of the guys from Sha Na Na when I was golfing at one of the little par-three courses I play. He was there all the time, so I got to be friends with him. He told me the reason they loved doing that song last is because it was the shortest song they did in their whole set. So we open the record with a Beach Boys song and close it with a ’50s doo-wop song. It just seems right.”

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