The Melvins ‘Everybody Loves Sausages’ (Ipecac Recordings)
There’s a bit of a chequered history, I guess, with covers albums. There’s the good ones, like Bowie’s Pin-Ups, the not-so-good, like Guns ‘N Roses The Spaghetti Incident, the utterly sublime ones such as Nick Cave’s Kicking Against the Pricks and any number of “a tribute to…” dull ones to contend with.
As a brief aside, I recently received a review copy of “A Tribute To the Music of the Sex Pistols, Clash and Damned” which was so execrable I threw it out of the window of the car.
The Melvins, sludge-rock titans from Washington, DC have long been an underground rock institution; mixing Black Sabbath with Black Flag, their singular take on irreverent, pummelling stoner rock has kept them pigeonholed as influential rather than successful all these years.
Dale Crover drummed for Nirvana on Bleach and Kurt Cobain cited The Melvins as one of his foremost influences.
Returning after last years Freak Puke, the album features a whole glut of guests from across the rock and punk worlds.
Opening with a fairly faithful cover of Venom’s Warhead, it’s clear that time has not dimmed The Melvins love of straight-down-the-line, battering thrash metal. Scott Kelly of Neurosis and Mastadon fame provides vocals and additional guitar and the precision and fire of the song rarely abates.
Speaking on the album’s release, main man Buzz Osborne stated that “first and foremost we are HUGE music fans” and this is clear throughout. The Melvins haven’t made a covers album for anyone other than themselves and for that they should be applauded. These are songs that they like and they don’t give a damn if you don’t.
Queen’s Best Friend is twisted through the Melvins-mangler. Not straying too far from the original template, it retains the melodic nous of the original whilst adding some blood and guts to the old standard. I found myself whistling this ‘un for hours after listening and believe me, I’m no fan of Queen.
An eleven-and-a-bit minute version of Dame David’s Station To Station ups the ante; Jim Thirwell (Foetus) adds vocal flavour as The Melvins take the motorik, psychedelic number and drag-race it down the autobahn.
A version of Roxy Music’s In Every Dream Home A Heartache seems slightly superfluous; Jello Biafra’s distinctive vocals lend a slightly deranged touch to this tale of mail-order blow-up doll love but it’s played, it seems, for laughs rather than the suburban nightmare of the original.
The Jam’s classic punk blazer Art School is literally shredded. The original is an incendiary, furious blast; The Melvins actually add gleeful hardcore power to it and, if anything, it’s faster and more breathless than Weller’s original.
The Kinks’ Attitude, with Blondie sticksman Clem Burke behind the kit is another highlight. Adding some punk, erm, attitude to the original breathes life into it while keeping the joy of the original intact.
In all, Everybody Loves Sausages isn’t a bad album.
It does what it sets out to do; it’s an album of covers chosen by The Melvins.
If you’re a fan, this would definitely be worth having, simply to enjoy the spread of unlikely songs and to check the breadth of influences that they’ve enjoyed over the years.
If you’re a newcomer, this one’s probably not for you.
That’s the thing about covers albums, and for that matter live albums; one is left wondering what the point is if they’re not contract fulfilment or, like this one, it seems, purely for the bands own enjoyment.