Over the past 30 years, stoner sludge lords the Melvins have been working on their own little Rock 'n' Roll revue. They do a Bowie tune, some Alice Cooper, a bunch of Flipper. There's a hat & cane dance, singer/guitarist/ smart aleck King Buzzo comes out wagging his fuzzy afro and cracks a few jokes. It's a lovely show.
As their body of work grows fatter, it's apparent that beyond being plain jane rockstars, these guys fancy themselves rock historians, too. With the release of Everybody Loves Sausage earlier this year, the Melvins' recorded catalog now includes over 40 cover tracks. They've taken the big rock songbook, years 1950 through the present day, and ripped out their favourite pages. They're certainly not afraid to let you in on who they have been listening to or to tell you a little less than politely who they think you should be listening to.
In writing this Primer on Montesanto, Washington's weirdest sons it became apparent that we'd have done less than our due diligence if there wasn't some subsection on Melvins, the off-kilter, impeccably curated cover band. Here are 10 of our favourite examples (calm down — we included "Sacrifice" in our other post).
KISS, "God of Thunder"
Here something of a perfect marriage: the Melvins take on the Gene Simmons-fronted Demon theme song from 1974’s Destroyer. This track appeared on Hard to Believe, an album of KISS covers, as well as Leech, the Melvins bootlegs compilation. Gene the groupie-slayer actually joined the band on bass for a handful of shows in ’93 and ’94.
Butthole Surfers, "Graveyard"
With the promise of free ice cream, Buzzo the pied piper lures children to gather round for a romp through Butthole Surfers' "Graveyard." Works so well that they snag Surfers' bassist Jeff Pinkus, too.
Wipers, "Youth of America"
From Electroretard, a faithful cover of the Wipers' title track from their 1981 classic pays homage plain and simple to the fellow West Coasters.
Nirvana, "Smells Like Teen Spirit"
But this faithful cover, fronted by Leif Garrett (who isn't quite in on the joke), feels more like a jab at Nirvana, an already-dead Cobain, and the song he had to perform ad nauseum, collecting his shiny coins like an organ grinder's good, little monkey. It starts off 2000's The Crybaby.
The Velvet Underground, "Venus in Furs"
But it's not like they were always at odds. Back in '91, Nirvana and the Melvins split an album covering Velvet Underground tunes. Just when you think you can imagine the Melvins trudging through the Velvets' classic, they flip you the bird and take off with your wallet.
Alice Cooper, "The Ballad of Dwight Fry"
"The Ballad of Dwight Fry" was included on Lysol, along with a cover of Alice Cooper's "Second Coming," both taken from 1971's Love it to Death, which probably holds an early and influential spot in Buzz's record collection. I'd bet that thing's just covered in spilled beer and pizza grease after all of the years Buzzo's had it close at hand.
MC5, "Rocket Reducer No. 62"
A B-side for "Hooch" and collected on the Leech compilation, the Melvins give a cocksure and convincing performance of MC5's "Rocket Reducer No. 62," though again, I'm sure Kick Out the Jams was played to Buzzo and Crover in their cribs at night.
The Germs, "Lexicon Devil"
From the 1997 compilation Singles 1-12, Buzzo does his best impression of Darby Crash the impetuous brat on the Germ's "Lexicon Devil" and kind of skewers first-wave punk in the process.
Roxy Music, "In Every Dream Home A Heartache"
The least intuitive cover on the list. When teamed up with Jello Biafra, Buzz realized that all along, the ex-Dead Kennedys frontman had been aping Roxy Music singer Bryan Ferry's warble — an unlikely mark, probably unrecognized by much of the Dead Kennedys fan base. Covering "In Every Dream Home a Heartache" is an experiment based on that hunch (though Biafra ends up sounding more like a cartoon ghost). But, boy, does it ever open up into something magnificent at about 3:50.
The Who, "My Generation"
Melvins suck all of that teenage energy out of The Who jukebox favourite. It's a hilarious transformation and sentiment from a band that seems utterly peerless. Who exactly are the Melvins' generation? Where do they belong? This seems like more a rallying cry to Melvins' fans and anyone that can get behind Buzzo's weird band — an inside joke for members of the cult.
Listen to the original versions in our rdio playlist below: