Review: Melvins Lite - Freak Puke

 Is this a Melvins album? It's hard to tell. The case of Freak Puke would be one of those cases where many will dispute against it with it not being a full lineup. This album sees the seminal grunge and stoner act play as a three piece incarnation, which they've been referring to as "Melvins Lite" which for the first time since 2004, doesn't contain the bands current lineup, with all music on the album performed by longstanding frontman Buzz "King Buzzo" Osborne on vocals and guitars, Dale Crover on drums and Tomahawk bassist Trevor Dunn, who has had his time in the band in the past, yet the current lineup of Buzzo, Crover, Jared Warren on bass and second drummer Coady Willis remains intact. Yeah, it's a weird situation. At the same time, a similar predicament that occurred within Corrosion of Conformity seemed to go unhitched, so why shouldn't it work for the Melvins? More to the point is Freak Puke a good enough album to be remembered as a genuine Melvins effort?

 Certainly, there is that traditional Melvins sound, which generally means there's nothing "Lite" about it. King Buzzo stills pack a fully-fledged heaviness in his riffage when he needs to and gives Baby You Won't Weird Me Out and A Growing Disgust and  that extra spark of skull smashing heaviness, as well as drowning various riffs in high levels of distortion and melodic droning to create the perfect atmosphere of utter bleakness. Surely the only atmosphere that can make listening to Melvins a truly satisfying event.
 Even in the smaller incarnation there's still a party going on. Melvins always have that ability to fill their music with doom and despair, which is also seen by the heavy use of cellos in Inner Ear Rupture and Holy Barbarians and as we all know, cellos are the ultimate instruments of despair. But they have also had the ability to balance things out and use their stony grunge riffs in a much more upbeat and adrenaline packed style which gives Leon vs. The Revolution and the album's title track an indestructible kind of epic glory and effortless badassery. It's a word now. In fact, the title track is definitely the best driving song of the year so far. And I can't even drive. There should probably be awards for "Best Driving Song of the Year." Probably should be awarded at the Grammys.
 Even the truly bizarre moments of the album remain gripping. The monolithic cover of Wings' Let Me Roll It strikes up a cradling curiosity of in how true it stays to the original despite the mass increase of distortion, while closer Tommy Goes Beserk plays out at first like a twisted version of David Bowie's Space Oddity before launching into rapid fire space rock madness and landing again into truly unsafe territory.
 Melvins Lite have definitely managed to make something of their own with Freak Puke. It doesn't stand up to Houdini or Stoner Witch but it definitely serves as it's own creation which serves as the proper sound of the Melvins that everyone loves taken into the droning and action packed territories that has truly built up their later work. Maybe it's not Melvins in band, but Freak Puke is still Melvins in sound.

 Melvins Lite's Freak Puke is out now via Ipecac.