Melvins ‘Freak Puke’ CD/LP/DD 2012
The Mevlins, or Melvins-Lite as their press release is dubbing them, are back with their second record of 2012 (easy boys…) and, as the title would suggest, it’s a queasy, freaky beast of an album. The Melvins-Lite moniker heralds the band’s return to being a three piece and, rather that detract from the band’s almighty two-drummers-and-as-many-guitarists-as-possible power, the trio have condensed the Melvins sound into a streamlined force. King Buzzo and Dale Crover are joined here by Trevor Dunn (of Fantômas and Mr. Bungle renown) who brings some earthy low-end frequencies and rhythms with his stand-up bass.
And it’s this new nugget in the Freak Puke stew that most defines the album’s sound, or differentiates it from some of the band’s more recent releases. As well as the rootsy, almost jazzy feel that the double bass lends to songs like “Mr. Rip Off” and “Baby, Won’t You Weird Me Out”, the instrument also manages to rock pretty hard too. On “A Growing Disgust” the double bass slots right into the usual Melvins formula of pompous, strident guitars and Crover’s ever-monumental, substantial drumming. “Leon vs. The Revolution” is pure classic Melvins at their rawest – a raucous, three minute blast of old school rock n’ roll. “Let Me Roll It” is an unashamed seventies rock n’ roll pastiche the likes of which was featured heavily on The Bulls and the Bees EP earlier this year.
The stand up bass also brings an abrasive and experimental new element into the band’s sound. Dunn alternates between pleasing plucked notes and aggressive bow-work, adding an almost John Cale-esque layer of discordant noise to songs like “Mr. Rip Off” and the self-explanatory “Inner Ear Rupture”. “Holy Barbarians” is the most abstract, moody and densely layered song on the album and is one of the album’s most interesting moments because of it. Led by a restless bassline, it kind of plays like a David Lynch day dream (you can almost picture Audrey Horne dancing to it in some back-water diner), the creepy, otherworldly vocals lulling you away to another place before the title track brings you back with a frying pan to the face, Dale Crover sounding like he’s playing a set of dustbin lids. He probably is.
Final track “Tommy Goes Beserk” begins like – of all bands – Smashing Pumpkins with the nostalgic vocals and the hints of Siamese Dream-era strings and mellotron in the background. After picking up momentum and volume, Tommy finally goes beserk and we’re left with an unsettling orchestra of ominous low, bowed notes and a scratching of strings that sounds like a horde of bees. The final minute is a bizarre college of noises, bordering on musique concrète, and the album comes to its strange conclusion.
Once again, a change in line-up seems to have done the Melvins a world of good. As well as providing new avenues for introducing some light and shade into the mix, the addition of Trevor Dunn on double bass has reinvigorated the band who sound as playful, experimental and bombastic as they have been for some time (the band seem to be having a good old time shouting “fight, fight fight!” at the end of “Leon vs. The Revolution”). Freak Puke might take a few listens to really sink in but it’s worth giving it a chance because it stands up as one of the best albums they’ve released in the past decade.
Label: Ipecac Recordings
Scribed by: Tom McKibbin