Friday, June 8, 2012

The Melvins - Freak Puke

 Freak Puke

"There he is," I muttered as we walked toward the others standing in line for the show.

We were early and the Melvins frontman, King Buzzo, was standing near the side entrance, right there on the Omaha sidewalk like everyone else. His frizzy, grey mop was unmistakable. I wanted so badly right then to walk up to him, shake his hand and say, "Hey, man. I'm glad I finally get a chance to hear you guys play live. Huge fan."

I didn't and I regret it to this day. See, I've been a Melvins junkie for the better part of my adult life and that was probably a once-in-a-lifetime chance for me. I'm getting too old now and don't get out as much.

What's it been? Well over 20 or 30 albums when you start counting live ones? Even more when you add the singles, splits, etc.? I clearly don't have the entire collection but I have almost every full-length they've put out since the early 90's, along with a handful of ep's and some live stuff. It's hard to keep up, especially this year, what with The Bulls and The Bees ep already and vinyl splits that keep coming out of the woodwork.

To me, the Melvins can do anything, but more often than not, it's whatever the hell they want. When it comes to new music from these guys, I've learned something over the years: expect the unexpected. I'm guaranteed to hear something completely unique in rock music and I'm probably gonna love it.

On their latest from Ipecac, Freak Puke, they explore new musical territory as a trio under the name, Melvins Lite, featuring Buzz Osborne, Dale Crover and Trevor Dunn (Mr. Bungle, Fantomas), who plays a standup bass on the entire 10-track, 43-minute record.

"The Melvins have a long history of mixing up our line-ups and I think that's what has kept us relevant for so long," Osborne said in a release from the label. "Consider the Freak Puke record the fifth side of the four-sided Melvins triangle."

That geometry somehow works. Believe me. This may be from Melvins Lite (not the ultimate version) but if you're a hardcore fan like me, then it's a must-have.

I suppose the 'freak' part of the album came during the first two tracks, when I became reacquainted with Dunn's many musical talents. I never thought I'd say, 'that standup bass is bad-ass,' while listening to a new Melvins record, but I did.

The almost-trippy "Mr. Rip Off" has Dunn starting with a low, foghorn bass sounds and light, intermittent squeals before the Crover and Buzzo join in, and on the instrumental, "Ear Rupture", Dunn goes plum ape-shit on the strings, generating sounds that could definitely damage eardrums. Yeah, it's freaky. Freaky-cool.

Dunn also lays down the groove for the rocking, "Baby, Won't You Weird Me Out", and has one truly amazing solo. An amazing standup bass solo on a new Melvins album. Didn't think I'd be saying that either, but I just did. Equally blown away by his work on "Worm Farm Waltz", I was.

"A Growing Disgust", the title track and "Leon vs. The Revolution" are the kind of rock songs I look for on every Melvins release. The riffs are right and the grooves are gargantuan. Many parts of Freak Puke are as heavy as any other music the Melvins have put out and if I didn't know it already, I wouldn't have any idea that the songs were by Melvins Lite. Awesome stuff.

Just by reading the title, I thought "Holy Barbarians" might also be one of the heaviest songs but I was way off-base. If anything, it's really psychedelic and the vocals make me think of the theme song from the old tv show, Three's Company. Huh. There's also a pretty cool, twisted cover of "Let Me Roll It", originally by Paul McCartney and Wings, I believe.

The 'puke' comes at the end of the album. "Tommy Goes Beserk" is ironically calm at the beginning but picks up speed and turns into a full-blown rock episode about three minutes in before settling back down. For the last minute or so, I hear what happens when Tommy's medicine disagrees with him. It's not pretty.

Overall, I think Freak Puke is another excellent addition to the Melvins discography. I probably don't have to tell you that it's also one of my favorite rock albums of 2012.


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