Melvins Lite, ‘Freak Puke’ – Album Review
The Melvins -- or more accurately, to use the name they're operating under for this record, Melvins Lite -- fearlessly conquer even more new sonic territory on their 18th album, 'Freak Puke.'
Temporarily abandoning the twin-drummer, four-piece lineup they've used to record their last three full-length albums -- as well as the highly impressive EP 'The Bulls & the Bees,' from just a couple of months ago -- band mainstays Buzz Osbourne (guitar / vocals) and Dale Crover (drums / vocals) are joined by Trevor Dunn on bass.
In a typically unexpected and innovative twist, Dunn plays acoustic, upright bass for much of the album. In addition to providing a completely new texture to the low end of a Melvins album, the acclaimed jazz musician occasionally takes the lead during frantic, squealing, violin-style interludes.
This creates a spooky, unsettling atmosphere similar to the work ambient musician Lustmord provided on his 2004 collaboration with the group, 'Pigs of the Roman Empire.' Another classic record from the band's past, 1999's restrained and melodic 'The Bootlicker,' provides a good reference point for some of the album's songs, such as opener 'Mr. Rip Off' and the hauntingly beautiful closer 'Tommy Goes Berserk.'
The latter number also shows how good the Melvins are at using all available tools and instruments to further their songwriting, as Crover pushes the song forward with repeated use of an impressive but integral and completely non-showy drum roll.
The band also prove they can still deliver familiar yet revitalized versions of their more traditional guitar-based rock on songs like 'A Growing Disgust' and a barreling, straight-ahead take on Paul McCartney's 1973 chestnut 'Let Me Roll It.' No matter how many times you tell yourself to expect the unexpected from Osbourne on guitar, he still manages to surprise and thrill with his creative choices.
Actually, that last statement holds true in a larger sense for the Melvins throughout their entire career; no matter what lineup they're using to explore whichever region of their ever-expanding musical kingdom, you can count on hearing something exciting and new. If you're looking to spice up your current musical playlist you can't do much better than the Melvins (Lite) and 'Freak Puke.'