When the Melvins teamed up with Big Business, it felt like they were, in effect, creating a sort of "Melvins squared." Jared Warren and Coady Willis seemed to be a perfect fit with Crover and Osborne, with the two pairs doubling up to create what could almost be described as a four-piece duo. After three albums together, Crover and Osborne return with their stripped-down Melvins Lite lineup on Freak Puke, an album that finds them shifting away from the big sludge excursions of their recent work in favor of something altogether weirder. Featuring Trevor Dunn (of Mr. Bungle and Fantômas fame) on standup bass, the album manages to touch on some of the Melvins' signature sounds while feeling, at times, like something completely new and undiscovered. While replacing one bassist for another might seem like a small thing, it proves to be a lynchpin in the album's sound. "A Growing Disgust" and "Leon vs. the Revolution" both feel like solid, familiar entries from the modern Melvins' catalog, but the acoustic rumble of Dunn's bass lurking in the deep end of the sonic spectrum adds just enough to make the songs stand out as something different. Where the album gets really interesting is where the band departs from the Motorik rock of their 2010s work with more sprawling, exploratory songs like "Inner Ear Rupture" and "Worm Farm Waltz." As these songs move further and further from the Melvins' wheelhouse, the begin to take on an almost Baroque quality, growing increasingly ornate and theatrical until they feel like the soundtrack to a production of Through the Looking Glass
starring King Buzzo as Alice. These weird, acid trip jams are made all the weirder by the inclusion of a cover of Paul McCartney's "Let Me Roll It," which is re-created with a faithful reverence that makes the freaked-out, Mercury Rev-esque closing track, "Tommy Goes Berserk," seem completely unhinged by comparison. All in all, like most Melvins albums, Freak Puke is something you haven't heard before and, also like most Melvins albums, it's probably something you should.