Melvins – Freak Puke

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Melvins
Freak Puke
Ipecac

This is the first Melvins album since 2004 to not feature the Big Business rhythm section of Jared Warren and Coady Willis. Instead, joining stalwarts Buzz Osborne and Dale Crover is returning member Trevor Dunn, performing on this album with an upright bass. And without disparaging recent Melvins’ efforts – cos they’ve generally been pretty good – the combination the band themselves have dubbed ‘Melvins-Lite’ is Melvins’ freshest-sounding for years, thanks in part to the chunky sounds of that bass and a slightly stripped back sound all round.

Unfortunately, it does feel like ‘Freak Puke‘ takes a little while to get going, owing a lot to the experimentation that seems to be going on during parts of this album. Its easy to get lost in the avant-garde of ‘Inner Ear Rupture’, and the jam session feel that overruns ‘Baby Won’t You Weird Me Out?’ Yet despite this ‘Freak Puke‘ does have some welcome moments on it. The opening track ‘Mr. Rip Off’ is certainly a grower, brooding in its lurking presence with Dunn plucking the thick bass strings to mysterious effect, and the riff fest of ‘Leon vs. The Revolution’ is thoroughly righteous too.

Melvins – Leon vs The Revolution

It perhaps speaks something to me though, when the track I enjoyed the most was their cover of ‘Let Me Roll It’, originally a Paul McCartney & Wings track. It becomes a smouldering blues-rock slow jam and if I heard this version of the song in a bar I would drunkenly sing along to every word. Sure, McCartney and Wings deserve credit for their genius in writing such a song that the Melvins can turn into a dive bar singalong. I can’t say I’d have done this for the original, given all I hear about as a non-fan of Wings is ‘Band on the Run’ or ‘Mull of Kintyre’. Whatever, ‘Let Me Roll It’ is a massively overlooked song, a quality one at that, and the Melvins did a fantastic job of this cover.

All in all, Melvins-Lite is a combination of the Melvins I certainly wouldn’t mind hearing more from in future, given the added groove provided by Dunn’s upright bass. That said, ‘Freak Puke‘ is almost like an unfinished article – not an unfinished work, because that would denote half a job. It’s not their greatest work and I’m still unsure about bits of it, but the Melvins have at least made an intriguing album, which, thirty years on, is no mean feat.

Peter Clegg

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Mike Patton – The Solitude of Prime Numbers

Mike Patton
The Solitude of Prime Numbers
Ipecac

The ever unpredictable Mike Patton throws yet another curveball at us with the release of ‘The Solitude of Prime Numbers’, a musical score to the film of the same name (2010’s La Solitudine dei Numeri Primi). The film (based on the book of the same name) applied the theory of twin primes – numbers that differ from another prime number by two. Having not seen the film yet, I’m not in a position to judge how well it applies to the silver screen, but Patton makes the theory work well here in a musical sense.

Each musical track is sequenced by Patton according to prime numbers – so therefore, only 2, 3, 5, 7…all the way to 53 feature musical content, the remaining tracks between filled with four seconds of silence or a slight overrun from the previous track. Patton himself is largely absent vocally, only bookending the album with some ‘la la la la’s’ to open and conclude. Instead, its down to the musical arrangement to carry the album’s concept and the lonely listener on a distant journey. The general mood of the songs runs anywhere from ominous and unsettling (’11 – Cicatrix’ being one example) to dream state (’19 – Radius of Convergence’) and simply beautiful (’29 – The Snow Angel’). Ultimately though, the music shouldn’t be dissected – the album must be listened to all the way through as a whole, to ensure you capture every mood and emotion going through the music.

Conventional rock or metal fans probably won’t buy into this due to its abstract nature and admittedly it will appeal more to the art masses. But Patton has scored this film incredibly well, much likes his previous work on ‘A Perfect Place‘ and on ‘Crank 2: High Voltage‘. It’s an excellent slab of modern classical music from the man of many guises. Needless to say, I found this an excellent diversion from the daily shredding, blasting and growling of metal, and indeed of the daily grind, as I made my daily, long commute home. An excellent companion, particularly within the loneliness of nightfall.

Peter Clegg