MacDara Conroy can’t shake the notion that the Melvins have phoned it in with covers collection Everybody Loves Sausages
Less than a year after jazzing up their sound – literally and figuratively – for the semi-acoustic trio effort Freak Puke, the Melvins‘ Buzz Osborne and Dale Crover have plugged in once more to bring us Everybody Loves Sausages, an album of cover versions and collaborations that apparently celebrates their influences and friendships made throughout their 30 years as a going concern. Coady Willis and Jared Warren of Big Business are back in the fold, and they’re followed by a bevy of special guests across an eclectic selection of tunes that doesn’t really surprise all that much, given the out-there nature of the band (not to mention their previous excursion into covers territory on 2000’s The Crybaby, where ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ sat comfortably alongside ‘Okie From Muskogee’). What does surprise, however, is how conservative a project it’s turned out to be.
The set kicks off with the thunderous martial drums of Venom’s ‘Warhead’, vocals courtesy of Neurosis’ Scott Kelly doing his best Tad Doyle impression. Much like the Houdini cover of Kiss hit ‘Going Blind’, the Melvins take the original more or less intact but do inject their own brand of heft. So far, so good – though it leaves one wanting for a version with Buzz singing.
Next, Caleb Benjamin of jazz-metal duo Tweak Bird does the vocals for Queen’s ‘Best Friend’, which the Melvins describe in the press kit as a “head-scratcher” for fans (presumably longhairs unused to chiptune keyboard lines). It left me scratching my head too: why did they play it so straight? I guess they went for the ‘wow it’s a sludge metal band playing all sweet and poppy and stuff’ approach. But Queen’s music is so ripe for interpretation – the Three One G comp Dynamite With A Laser Beam is the supreme example of this – that it’s disappointing to hear them miss the opportunity to plant their own stamp. Ditto ‘Black Betty’, which basically apes the classic Ram Jam version, minus the stop-on-a-dime time changes and razor-sharp riffage that make that one such a rager.
Actually, those tracks sum up this album in a nutshell, as the 13 songs here each fit into one of two categories: the ones where the Melvins play it their way (not straying far from the original), or the ones where the they play it the way the original band does (really not straying at all). Into the former category go The Scientists’ ‘Set It On Fire’ (which Mudhoney’s Mark Arm in the mic); a worthy update of The Fugs’ ‘Carpe Diem’; a loutish Oi! version of The Jam’s ‘Art School’ (with comedy ‘English’ vocals by Tom Hazelmyer of Amphetamine Reptile Records infamy); the Melvins-Lite interpretations of Divine’s ‘Female Trouble’ and Tales of Terror’s ‘Romance’; and what’s easily the best track of the bunch, a blown-out take on Bowie’s ‘Station to Station’ in collaboration with JG ‘Foetus’ Thirwell.
Into the latter go the Pop-O-Pies’ ‘Timothy Leary Lives’; The Kinks’ ‘Attitude’ (with Blondie’s Clem Burke on drums, not that you’d know it); the Melvins-gone-Throbbing Gristle racket of the closing ‘Heathen Earth’ (which pales in comparison to their past teamwork with Lustmord); and a pointless tribute-band retread of Roxy Music’s ‘In Every Dream Home A Heartache’ remarkable only for how well Jello Biafra can do Bryan Ferry’s unique vocal intimations. Yet even if they’d left off these unnecessary bits, I can’t shake the notion that the Melvins have phoned it in with this one. Maybe everybody else loves sausages; personally I’d prefer something a bit more substantial.