Freak Puke, the Melvins’ eighteenth studio album, is very appropriately titled.
Their sludgy doom-metal inspired Kurt Cobain to make music in the late 1980s, and little has changed in the thirty years they’ve been a band. Freak Puke may have been recorded by “Melvins Lite” – a stripped-down version of the band’s lineup featuring guitarist/vocalist Buzz Osborne, drummer Dale Crover (a onetime Nirvana kit-man) and Trevor Dunn (of the Mike Patton project Mr. Bungle) on bass, but the music is still the same cacophonous mix of offbeat rhythms and jarring guitar tones that made them the legends they’ve become.
“Mr. Rip Off”, with its eerie bass sounds and ominous horror movie atmospherics, kicks off the record appropriately. Clocking in at nearly six minutes, its slow, dirty burn and Osborne’s howl leads right into “Inner Ear Rupture”, which sounds exactly as you’d expect – haunting, abrasive and terrifying, thanks to Dunn’s standup bass.
“Baby, Won’t You Weird Me Out” has one of the album’s best grooves, veering dangerously close to “standard song structure” – until the Melvins’ requisite irreverence comes into play once the background vocals and free-form jam take over.
Other songs, like the brilliantly-titled and erratically-paced “Worm Farm Waltz”, the full-on metal/grunge assault of “A Growing Disgust”, the Southern-fried “Leon vs. the Revolution”, and the twisting “Holy Barbarian” accelerate the strangeness.
And then…it hits you. Seemingly out of nowhere, a cover of Paul McCartney & Wings’ “Let Me Roll It” shows up as the second-to-last song. Maybe it’s the shock of hearing the Melvins give the classic tune this kind of makeover, the sequencing on the record, or Osborne’s vocal delivery, but the song is as powerful a cover as you could have hoped for it to be. It slays.
Freak Puke concludes with the sprawling, nine-minute opus “Tommy Goes Berserk”, which starts with some melodic guitar strumming before devolving into total, blissful chaos. The last five minutes or so are a whirlwind of guitar solos, drum obliteration, and an echoing sample of some crazed laughter, ostensibly the sound of the aforementioned Tommy losing his mind.
If you know what you’re getting yourself into with a Melvins record, give Freak Puke a spin. If you don’t know what to expect, that might work too. Just make sure the lights are off and you’re ready to experience some otherworldly weirdness, and you’ll be good to go.
ALBUM RATING: 4.5 Stars (out of five)
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