My favorite Melvins song wasn’t written by the Melvins. It’s a KISS cover — “Goin’ Blind”, off 1993’s Houdini. To these ears, it’s the band’s definitive moment: a powerhouse of a track that’s both melodic and sludgy. But that’s not to discredit all the original music King Buzzo and Co. have released over past three decades.
Shoehorned into the grunge movement (as was every band that played loud guitars and/or were located in the Pacific Northwest in the early ’90s), the Melvins never adhered to any predefined genre template or trend. They’d quake your subwoofer with their downtuned power riffage, but it wasn’t heavy metal; the band always deflected Black Sabbath comparisons. They’d insert an infectious melody into your brain, but it wasn’t pop music. The Melvins are simply the Melvins. And although they’re well past their prime (Buzzo’s getting all silver fox on us), the band’s displayed remarkable durability as of late, touring all 50 states in 51 days during their last tour and releasing Freak Puke last year.
The Melvins’ latest endeavor is a guest-heavy covers album called Everybody Loves Sausages, and it’s totally ridiculous, just as the name suggests. While nothing here is of “Goin’ Blind”-quality, these renditions embody the irreverent humor that the Melvins have patented throughout their existence. Some songs are silly, some are sincere, some just plain suck. All of it’s done in good fun, though, making even those questionable choices hard to criticize.
Sausages opens with its heaviest tune — Venom’s “Warhead”. The Melvins are right at home on this one, cranking the bass and making sure every note hit with maximum force. Yep, that’s Neurosis frontman Scott Kelly on vocals, utilizing his huskiest growl: “Waaarrhead / Feel the thunder roar.” It’s classic, grungified Melvins. The following track — a cover of Queen’s “You’re My Best Friend” — couldn’t be further from that high. In a brilliant move, the Melvins translate the opening keyboard ditty into chiptune Game Boy music. No husky growls this time; instead Tweak Bird’s Caleb Benjamin tries on his best Freddie Mercury falsetto, and, rather endearingly, half achieves it. For such an overplayed song (FM classic rock stations ruined it), it’s surprisingly addictive. That Game Boy… it’s just so inviting.
The Melvins try similar experiments on other tracks, with varying degrees of success. On the nine-minute rendition of Roxy Music’s “In Every Dreamhouse A Heartache”, Dead Kennedy Jello Biafra supplies guest vocals (The Jelvins!), but instead of screaming wildly, like you’d expect, he sings in an awkward operatic baritone that borders on grating. Skip. The electronic instrumental “Heathen Earth” (originally by Throbbing Gristle) meanders aimlessly and also proves unnecessary. But this is a covers album. There are bound to be some duds.
Fortunately, those duds are few. The Melvins sound inspired and lively playing these songs, and it’s obvious the band put some time into crafting their own versions. You don’t just go into the studio and knock out David Bowie’s “Station to Station”, one of the obvious highlights here, on a whim. They nail every movement — especially the tempo transition — and Buzzo duets masterfully with J.G. Thirwell (of Foetus). Neither tries to mime Bowie’s voice; rather they just wail as best they can.
Everybody Loves Sausages exceeds every expectation for a covers album, especially one so far into a band’s career. To return to the Melvins’ aforementioned durability, these guys are rock ‘n’ roll iron men. And they’re an incredibly professional band, despite all their goofy in-jokes and occasional sloppiness. You can hear the reverence in these covers. The Melvins respect their influences, and that’s what motivates Everybody Loves Sausages.
Essential Tracks: “Warhead”, “You’re My Best Friend”, and “Station to Station”