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Melvins - Everybody Loves Sausages[30th April  2013]
[Ipecac Recordings]

01. Warhead
02. Best Friend
03. Black Betty
04. Set It on Fire
05. Station to Station
06. Attitude
07. Female Trouble
08. Carpe Diem
09. Timothy Leary Lives
10. In Every Dream Home a Heartache
11. Romance
12. Art School
13. Heathen Earth

The Melvins are not so much part of the furniture of the alt-metal universe as they are part of its very genetic coding. For the best part of thirty years, main man Buzz Osborne, long-term cohort drum powerhouse Dale Crover, and a wide retinue of bass players and assorted other musicians have kept up a frenetic work rate that puts bands that weren’t even born when debut album Gluey Porch Treatments was released to shame.

The Melvins are, probably simultaneously, a completionist’s dream and worst nightmare. Everybody Loves Sausages is the band’s 21st full length album, with comfortably more than sixty assorted singles, EPs, live and compilation albums besides. There’s something quietly pleasing about the band’s long-term friendship with prog-metal overlords Tool as, by my count, they have racked up more than twenty separate releases since 10,000 Days. If there really is no rest for the wicked, the Melvins must be the most evil band in rock.

But with such quantity, sometimes the quality drops a little. My appreciation for the band reached new heights following the slightly mysterious departure of bass player Kevin Rutmanis and the subsequent recruitment of Big Business bass and drum duo Jared Warren and Coady Willis. The twin-drummer configuration breathed new life into the band, and elevated their live shows to must-see status – but even so, every album has tracks I find myself skipping after the first couple of listens.

So I wasn’t sure what I would make of this, the band’s first official album comprised entirely of cover versions. As one would expect, it is an eclectic collection of tunes, and I had only heard the original versions of two of the thirteen selected tracks beforehand. I was certainly not expecting one of those two tunes – Queen‘s “Best Friend” – to be even more cutsey-poo than the original, all sugar-sweet vocals and twinkly synths. The weirdness of that track is only compounded by it coming hot on the heels of a towering version of Venom‘s “Warhead” featuring Scott Kelly of Neurosis.

Indeed, the high calibre of the many guests on the albums reflects the esteem in which the band are held – the enigmatic JG Thirlwell pops up to take on David Bowie‘s epic “Station To Station“, Mudhoney‘s Mark Arm appears on a forgettable “Set It On Fire” and Alternative Tentacles Records supremo Tom Hazelmyer helps make The Jam‘s “Art School” sound more punk than Paul Weller and co ever could. Blondie drummer Clem Burke appears on a raucous rendition of The Kinks‘ “Attitude“.

But pride of place in the guest spotlight is punk legend Jello Biafra hilariously channelling Bryan Ferry on Roxy Music‘s “In Every Dreamhouse A Heartache”, which is almost worth the purchase price alone to hear.

Accompanying this cavalcade of talent is split between the now standard twin-drummer quartet formation and the ‘Melvins Lite’ configuration, with Buzz and Dale joined by low-end genius Trevor Dunn on stand-up bass. This latter line-up came about when Jared and Coady temporarily reactivated Big Business, and rather than taking the opportunity for a nice sit-down, the stripped down band embarked on a tour that saw them playing all 50 States, as well as Washington DC, in 50 successive nights. Not a band for taking it easy.

The other real stand-out track is “Black Betty” a work song first recorded in the 1930’s, and a quick Youtube search will reveal versions by bands as diverse as Meatloaf, ZZ Top and Sheryl Crow. The band’s percussion heavy take has been part of their live show, and it does one of the best jobs yet of capturing the thrilling wall of noise kicked up by two fantastic drummers working in well-oiled unison.

If I am scrupulously honest, I will admit that I didn’t really enjoy my first listen to Everybody Loves Sausages. Perhaps due to the wide variety of additional contributors, it felt scrappy and disordered. And, true to form, at least a couple of tracks I found completely unlistenable.

But after a few more listens, I will admit it has a certain endearing charm to it, so long as you don’t take it too seriously – which is the Melvins all over, really.

All told, this probably isn’t an album for the uninitiated, and there are probably better places for someone taking their first steps into the vast body of work that is the Melvins back catalogue to begin – like the genuinely seminal Houdini from 1993 or the more recent, twin-drummer Nude With Boots.

Established fans are probably more likely to view this with a sort of qualified affection. But the great thing about the Melvins is that if you aren’t all that keen on any individual release, there’ll be another one along before too long.


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