Melvins – Everybody Loves Sausage (2013)
Well, I’m not going to lie to you, I love (the) Melvins; seminal grunge pioneers, friends of Nirvana, friends with Mike Patton, experimental rock legends, and bloody nice guys to boot. I’ve seen them a couple of times, including once performing a live soundtrack to three short films by Cameron Jamie after which we got to say hi to Buzz.
You never know what to expect with (the) Melvins, from their sludgey doomy early work on Gluey Porch Treatments (1987), laying part of the foundations for grunge, Houdini (1993), and onward to experimental weirdness on The Maggot (1999) and The Bootlicker (1999), to collaborative efforts, even throwing in some country with Hank Williams III on The Crybaby (2000); joining forces with Jello Biafra for some more punky stuff on Never Breathe What You Can’t See (2004) and Sieg Howdy! (2005), or with Lustmord for some avant noise on Pigs Of The Roman Empire (2004). More recently changing line-up to join forces with stoner/sludge band Big Business, incorporating two drummers for an amazing and massive rocking sound.
So, when they announced a covers album, I wasn’t the least bit surprised, but I was excited! (The) Melvins have a list of influences as long as your arm, and I was interested to hear what made them tick.
To start with, the line up here is a bit of a hodgepodge. King Buzzo (Buzz Osbourne; guitars and vocals) and Dale Crover (drums) form the core of (the) Melvins, while Jared Warren (bass and vocals) and Coady Willis (drums) are the Big Business contingent. Another side to (the) Melvins is Melvins Lite, a touring band consisting of Buzz, Crover and including Mr Bungle, Secret Chiefs 3, Fantomas (which includes Buzz on guitar), and now Tomahawk (which he joined after Kevin Rutmanis, who used to be in (the) Melvins, left) bassist . Here, most of the tracks are (the) Melvins, and a few are Melvins Lite, as well having a slew of guest appearances.
Opener, Venom’s Warhead is brutal chugging metal, featuring Neurosis’s Scott Kelly on vocals, not straying massively from the original, slightly rounder sound and not as noisy. Next up, Tweak Bird’s Caleb Benjamin takes the vocal role on Queen’s Best Friend, starting with a Casio-keyboard styled intro, sounding not much like either band (though, not surprisingly); things get a bit more psychedelic in the middle section. They really sound like they had fun making this one.
Next up is a great Melvins-esque (if any part of their sound could be described as a definitive sound for them) version of Ram-Jam’s Black Betty; this one is fantastic. Post-punk pioneers, The Scientists are next with Set It On Fire, with Mudhoney’s vocalist/guitarist and grunge pioneer Mark Arm joins on vocals.
Following that, experimental/industrial legend J.G. Thirwell (AKA Clint Ruin, Foetus, Steroid Maximus) joins the fray. Thirwell had already joined forces with (the) Melvins on The Crybaby, where they performed Foetus’s Mine Is No Disgrace, possibly one of my favourite tracks on that album. Here they perform David Bowie’s Station To Station in a typically epic claustrophobic noisy manner. Blondie drummer Clem “Elvis Ramone” Burke takes over drumming duties on the Kinks’s Attitude, giving a rousing punky rendition that is worthy of the classic British band.
Female Trouble was originally by Divine, actor, singer and drag artist, and is the first to include Trevor Dunn on double bass. I’d never heard of Divine prior to this, to be honest, but the original track is a theatrical disco-bluesy lament, and is given a great treatment by (the) Melvins, who emphasise the bluesy elements to give one of the stand-out performances of the album.
Pyschedelic rockers, The Fugs’s Carpe Diem is next; another great rendition, as the style changes from Beach Boys-style harmonies to crunching guitar at the blink of an eye. Early American punkers, Pop-O-Pies’s Timothy Leary Lives is next. Pop-O-Pies are a notable inclusion, as former members of the band include Trey Spruance and Danny Heifetz, both of Mr Bungle and Secret Chiefs 3, which must be unusual for former bandmate Dunn, playing bass and singing on this one.
I must admit, when I saw the next track, In Every Dream Home A Heartache, I beamed. Roxy Music’s ode to an inflatable sex doll is one of my favourite tracks by them, and one that has also been covered live in a great version by Tomahawk. This version brings former Melvins’/former Tomahawk’s Kevin Rutmanis in on bass, and Dead Kennedys’ Jello Biafra on vocals. The original is a pretty left-field psychedelic outing anyway, even for the early-era art-rockers; I mean, you try and convince people that this is the same Bryan Ferry who performed Slave To Love. Melvins’ take on it is just spot on, dark and unsettling in the first half and noisy and rocky in the second half.
Next is Romance by Tales of Terror, a hardcore punk band cited by both Kurt Cobain and Mark Arm as influences. The sound is more reined in than the original and twisted into a more psychedelic ball. This is followed by The Jam’s Art School, with a decidedly oi! sound rather than the new wave punk style of the original. Vocals and guitar are courtesy of Tom Hazelmyer, founder of Amphetimine Reptile Records, renowned for bands, such as (the) Melvins, Cows (Kevin Rutmanis again!), Helmet (whose drummer John Stanier is in Tomahawk), etc.
And finally, Buzz takes on Throbbing Gristle’s Heathen Earth, condensing an album’s worth of experimental industrial weirdness into one 4-minute outing; and not doing a bad job of capturing the essence of it, to be honest.
Overall, a fabulous album; and just as I expected, totally unexpected. Not necessarily a great intro to the band if you’ve never heard them before, due to the multiple styles and line ups involved, but it might be interesting if you know the originals to see others’ interpretations of them. Everybody Loves Sausages is in no way cynical, you can tell that this is genuinely a band putting forward tracks and say “look, this is what we listened to and we want to share it with you”.
Favourite tracks: Black Betty, Female Trouble, Art School
Spotify link: Melvins – Everybody Loves Sausages