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.