My favorite Melvins song wasnt written by the Melvins. Its a KISS cover Goin’ Blind, off 1993s Houdini. To these ears, its the bands definitive moment: a powerhouse of a track thats both melodic and sludgy. But thats 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. Theyd quake your subwoofer with their downtuned power riffage, but it wasnt heavy metal; the band always deflected Black Sabbath comparisons. Theyd insert an infectious melody into your brain, but it wasnt pop music. The Melvins are simply the Melvins. And although theyre well past their prime (Buzzos getting all silver fox on us), the bands 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 its 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 its done in good fun, though, making even those questionable choices hard to criticize.
Sausages opens with its heaviest tune Venoms 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. Its classic, grungified Melvins. The following track a cover of Queens Youre My Best Friend couldnt 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 its 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 youd 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 its obvious the band put some time into crafting their own versions. You dont just go into the studio and knock out David Bowies 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 Bowies 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 bands career. To return to the Melvins aforementioned durability, these guys are rock n’ roll iron men. And theyre 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 thats what motivates Everybody Loves Sausages.
Essential Tracks: Warhead, “You’re My Best Friend”, and Station to Station