“Lite” But No Less Heavy
As foretold back in early April, The Melvins’ The Bulls and the Bees EP was a mere appetizer to the upcoming full-length release, Freak Puke. Absent are Big Business members Jared Warren and Coady Willis, and in their place is former Mr. Bungle bassist and occasional touring Melvin, Trevor Dunn. This swap does not mean the band is changing lineups, and to drive that point home, it is being released under the moniker, “Melvins Lite.”
Leader Buzz Osborne considers this incarnation the “fifth side of the four-sided Melvins triangle,” implying no matter who is in the band, fans can expect the same dedication to the Melvins’ blend of slow, sludgy grooves and random experimentation. Freak Puke begins with a cacophony of droning, bowed bass and guitar on “Mr. Rip Off,” until a couple minutes in when Osborne’s familiar, smooth vocals enter. Not to be outdone, the next track, “Inner Ear Rupture,” includes more atonal strings and that continues into the third song. Soon enough, it all melds together—gradually appearing more like an evolution than a tease—and the album really starts rocking. And just when you think you know what’s going to happen next, you don’t.
Each song offers different surprises in structure—where did this part come from and where did it go?—challenging the listener to embrace rock without rules. Despite that admirable attempt, the high points of Freak Puke are the more predictable tunes like “Leon vs. the Revolution” and the title track. Another highlight is their cover of the Wings classic, “Let Me Roll It,” recorded with such rawness that it doesn’t sound out of place among the less pop-oriented numbers. But taken as a whole, Freak Puke sounds like seasoned veterans having a good time in a garage with a tape recorder, and if you like what you hear—which you probably will—then that’s just gravy.