"It was easier hiring them than trying to find a new bass player. I'm probably getting ready to kick them out—I might just kick them out after we play Seattle." This is the response (the) Melvins' linchpin Buzz Osborne offers when I ask him about the impetus and outcome of pulling Big Business into his legendary band's lineup. When I suggest that such a seemingly sarcastic response is more indicative of drummer Coady Willis and bassist Jared Warren actually having more job security (after all, Osborne being flip with the press isn't exactly unprecedented), he simply says, "Well, who knows, I might be serious."

If he is, he's a damn fool. (A) Senile Animal, (the) Melvins' eighth full-length on Ipecac Records, might be the most addictive, broadly appealing record of their prolific career.

This could be because of the addition of Willis and Warren, one of the strongest hard-rock rhythm sections Seattle has produced. But it could also be because Osborne and longtime drummer Dale Crover felt they had gotten a long spell of experimentalism out of their system. Their last several releases for Mike Patton's decidedly genre-surfing label have been brilliant, but occasionally tedious affairs, with 20-minute dirges of the band's signature sludge and enough sonic non sequiturs to disorient even the most adventurous listener.

While a band as accomplished and creative as (the) Melvins is more than entitled to indulge in such Metal Machine–isms, the fact that (A) Senile Animal is packed with sharp, concise songs feels positively refreshing. The disc opens with minimalist percussive flair on "The Talking Horse," before the mood quickly goes down the classic Melvin corridors lined with minor chords and ominous vocals, but with a sense of tight, streamlined purpose that leads to utterly melodic moments on standout tracks like "You've Never Been Right" and "The Hawk," a frenetically paced tirade that blisters and boils with what sounds like pointed attacks at the nü-metal brigade ("You think you're wild/But you're nothing new"). By the time the record wraps up just shy of 60 minutes, you're ready to start it over again.

(A) Senile Animal is catchy as hell, but is by no means the sort of tired simplification older punk-rock outfits sometimes fall back on when they pass the 20-year mark—an anniversary (the) Melvins hit last year. That they maintain a briskly paced, unselfconscious work ethic undoubtedly helps. "They're not sticklers for perfection, as long as the energy is there," affirms Willis via phone from his new home in Los Angeles (both he and Warren relocated there prior to joining the L.A.-based Melvins). "They don't care about that stuff, as long as the feel is really good and the song comes off. It's not supposed to be a sterile, perfect thing. I've never recorded with another drummer, so I was apprehensive, but I think we finished all of the drums in two days."

Willis was obviously and understandably thrilled when Osborne and Crover asked Big Business to share their talents. "I think I first saw Dale live when I was 15 or 16," he recalls. "It just opened my eyes; somehow I realized that's how you're supposed to play the drums. So he's someone I've looked up to a long time." Even better, working alongside Crover is essentially like attending drummer grad school for Willis, a seasoned musician already packing a formidable arsenal of hard-hitting skills. The two play side by side and form mirror images of each other (thanks to the fact that Willis is left-handed and Crover favors his right). "It's an amazing opportunity to have this chance to get better," says Willis. "He knows when to play quiet and when to play loud... something that I've needed to get better at. I'm learning a lot."

When I tell him about the commentary I received from Professor Osborne earlier, Willis laughs, but acknowledges that he and Warren are taking nothing for granted. "Those guys like to keep us on our toes. Given the track record of people who have been in (the) Melvins, we're not getting too cozy."