It is an irrefutable truth when considering any Melvins album that one of the only ways to appropriately discuss the music is to reflexively use the band’s name as an adjective. The Melvins, some twenty years after Kurt Cobain made them a musical household name, have carved themselves an undeniable niche that is populated solely by Buzz Osborne and his band. No one else sounds like this; no one can even being to capture the “throw it all out there and see what takes” attitude and creativity of King Buzzo.
So does this rule still apply when the Melvins are playing covers? This is the fundamental question behind “Everybody Loves Sausages,” the band’s new covers-only album. As a band, The Melvins have been known to let loose with creative covers before, including a shockingly good “Smells Like Teen Spirit” featuring oft-ridiculed “Behind the Music” alum Leif Garrett.
If you were trying to plot these songs as points on a graph, the x-axis would be the division of ‘well-known songs’ versus ‘obscure songs’ and the y-axis would divide ‘sounds like the original’ versus ‘sounds like The Melvins.” Each cover on “Everybody Loves Sausages” would land in one of the resultant quadrants.
The genuine end of the spectrum would be the spot-on facsimile of “You’re My Best Friend.” Close your eyes and listen too quickly, and you’d think it was the original Queen hit. Apart from some accented keyboard and a section of spacey wandering toward the end, it’s the same song, played note for note.
The next quadrant features covers like “Black Betty,” the country-fried classic made famous by Ram Jam, but believed to be much older than even their version. Osborne infuses the song with the beating heart of American punk rock, changing the affect from swaggering bar song to thin, raspy grunge. Coupled with Osborne’s low growl, you have a cover that defies description except to say that it’s very ‘Melvins.’
In the middle of everything is their take on David Bowie’s “Station to Station,” accentuated by JG Thirlwell, founder of the industrial band Foetus and genius behind the music of the best show on television, “The Venture Brothers.” It’s an expansive cover of a famous song, strung out over eleven minutes of musical wandering and experimental production. Nonetheless, it keeps much of the original song’s soul intact.
On the other side of the fame spectrum, The Melvins grind through an impossibly dirty cover of Venom’s “Warhead,” which was already a dirty song, soaked with grit and grime. Osborne brings along what must be some personal favorites, including a song by something called The Fugs, one by Pop-o-Pies and even a super industrial cover of “Heathen Earth” by Throbbing Gristle, the band most famous at one point for punching a time clock at the beginning and end of every set.
Snuck in there but worth mentioning is the band’s take on “Female Trouble” by John Waters, which is impossibly funny to hear Buzzo singing in a ‘theatre of the absurd’ sort of way. Remember when Type O Negative covered “Angry Inch?” This is sort of like that.
Good, bad or ugly, “Everybody Loves Sausages” is very inventive, functions both in and out of the box, and most of all, is very Melvins.