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

Melvins – The Bulls and the Bees

Melvins

The Bulls & The Bees
Scion A/V
The Melvins feel to have been around an eternity, yet show no signs of letting up their prolificacy. Indeed, 2012 is setting up to be an even busier year for them, with the forthcoming release of the ‘Melvins Lite’ album ‘Freak Puke‘ almost upon us, following hot off the heels of the Scion A/V-backed EP ‘The Bulls and The Bees‘, once again comprising the quartet of Buzz Osborne, Dale Crover and the Big Business rhythm section of Jared Warren and Coady Willis. Now in the 29th year as a band in one shape or another, the Melvins are still bang on form and firing on all cylinders, even if ‘The Bulls and The Bees‘ isn’t quite classic material, although still far better than anything you can do.
Kicking things off with ‘The War on Wisdom’, this EP doesn’t bear any surprises but maintains quality throughout – the aforementioned track bolstered by the galloping drums from Crover and Willis, and Osborne and Warren’s signature vocals. ‘We Are Doomed’, the EP’s lengthiest track, possessing a cracking riff. That said, the remainder of the EP isn’t exactly memorable, with ‘Friends Before Larry’ and ‘A Really Long Wait’ never really getting going, robbing the momentum gained from the previous two tracks – though it does redeem itself with closer ‘National Hamster’.

Melvins – The War on Wisdom (official video)

All eyes will now be on the aforementioned ‘Freak Puke‘, a diversion from the Melvins’ recent history but no less of an intriguing prospect. That said, let’s hope the four-piece version of the band get back together before to further forge on from this work. For now, this free release from Scion A/V is enjoyable enough to tide us over for now, though I suspect fans may track back into the band’s long discography for their kicks during the quartet’s probably brief hibernation.
Peter Clegg

Live Review: Melvins @ The Irish Centre, Leeds, 02/11/2011

 
At around 9 o’clock in Leeds at the Irish Centre, the stage, which the crowd have been loitering around drinking for a fair while now due to lack of support bands, is invaded by 4 weird looking fuckers. The one with a guitar appears to have a neck-warmer on below a huge fuzz of hair, and an odd throw with multi-coloured horses under a black silk robe of some sort. Next to him are two drum kits which are now occupied, one of the percussionists sporting what looks like half a gimp suit, his fellow stick wielder, the only one that wouldn’t stand out in a crowd. To the right of the kits, more spherical hair nearly makes the stage look like a mirror image.

If you don’t know who Im talking about yet, I’m surprised you’ve gotten this far. The band of course are the Melvins. Howling feedback and huge noises come from Buzz Osbourne while perfectly synchronized beats that are almost tribal with earth shattering toms demand the attention of everything in what must be a mile vicinity.
After a few unhinged minutes of child-frightening noise, the riffs are flowing and the beats thunderous. Its easy to see why the Melvins have the reputation they do; the live intensity of the band is certainly formidable and I can’t see that they could have anything but improved and honed this very distinct sound over the years.

There’s nothing predictable about the performance, riffs that have the speed of a crippled sloth and the size of a universe suck you into hypnotic daze and the next moment you’l be subjected to a surreal chanting session between Buzz and Jared or a chorus that hooks faster than the finest Peruvian. Old songs such as ‘Lizzy’ are played with new energy and some alterations, and sound a little more like something from the bands newer material. They do lose a little of the raw sludge feel that they had, but gain power, focus and of course quirkyness.

A variety of old and new kept the set interesting, with a good few from ‘Nude with Boots‘ being played (im aware that this isn’t their newest album but it’s the latest I have, fuck off.) alongside the likes of ‘A History of Bad Men’. They played for around 90 minutes which makes many bands, especially for people of my concentration level, become dull. The Melvins did not. The hour and a half would have actually flown by had it not been for the fact that we had come to realise that this ‘Irish Bar’ was, in fact, a giant oven. “No wonder I’ve never seen a band here before, everyone that comes here is cooked alive”, I would’ve thought had my brain not been boiling.
Despite the temperature, there was a great atmosphere and everyone seemed to be having a good time (or most), which makes a change from the majority of metal gigs I attend where a significant amount of people seem to be having a ‘how angry can I appear’ competition, and the rare sight of a female attracts the rapist stare. One particularly warm moment for the crowd was watching a very drunk man of the latter description failing to start fights and falling over every two minutes, nothing better for the soul than someone else making massive tit of themselves.
The Melvins finished on an odd note, which is predictable really. However, far from feeling cheated by the lack of a proper last song, I still feel the need to stress the band’s greatness live. You really wouldn’t even have to be a fan to appreciate them being on their own (though you should probably check you like em). Considering the volume of material they’ve got it probably won’t make much difference if you’ve heard the band anyway.
Michael Collins