The Melvins‘ 18th studio album is only sort of a Melvins album. The band’s two long-time members (singer/guitarist Buzz Osbourne and drummer Dale Crover) substituted their usual four-piece lineup for a stripped-down trio, dubbed “Melvins Lite.”
The term “stripped down” really only applies in reference to the number of performers. Osbourne, Crover, and bassist Trevor Dunn still heap on the crossover punk-metal, but after almost 30 years, they’re still finding ways to make it new. Freak Puke opens with a bowed double bass, and a handful of songs have cacophonous string sections. Dunn even ventures into jazz with his bass solos.
There’s a classic rock influence that doesn’t usually come through on the Melvins’ other work. Osbourne lays down more bluesy Southern metal licks than the usual sludge riffs, and they even cover Paul McCartney. “Worm Form Waltz” and “A Growing Disgust” sound like a doom version of Dark Side of the Moon, and “Mr. Rip Off” ends up veering toward Grateful Dead.
It’s definitely weird, but what would you expect from an album called Freak Puke? It goes far enough outside the box (even by Melvins standards) so that it’s actually less abrasive than straightforward metal. Freak Puke ends up showing a lot of depth.
(Ipecac Recordings, PO Box 1778 Orinda, CA 94563)