You might be tempted to say that the 13 tracks on the new Melvins record have been “adapted,” “interpreted,” “transformed” or even, if you really want to show off that Arts degree, “transmuted.” But the reality is that to say so would be reductive and untrue. There’s no word that would aptly express what the Melvins have done on Everybody Loves Sausages. Each track is less an adaptation and more an ersatz rendering of the original. Dr. Frankenstein burned calories long into the stormy night and pieced together organs and extremities from human beings to create his own not-quite-human. Now the Melvins have done the same in the recording studio. Cobbling together the expansive detritus of their musical sensibilities, they have created entities that are at once familiar and unnervingly and uncannily alien. Everybody Loves Sausages is the post-modern musical Prometheus.
They infuse sinister atmospherics into the saccharine chiptune furnishings of their cover of Queen’s “You’re My Best Friend”. They turn “Black Betty” into a percussive, oddball beer hall sing-along while keeping it mercifully short. Devastatingly underrated Australian band The Scientists are given that low-end they always needed on “Set It On Fire” and the cover of Bowie’s “Station to Station” is glorious. The vocals are eerily similar to Bowie’s, not like an imitation but rather as though the band has rigged a heavily sedated Bowie up to a car battery and are controlling him with electric shocks. Their Roxy Music cover is just plain creepy. Really, really, really, really creepy—the vocals are performed by Jello Biafra, go figure.
“We really like all of these songs along with the bands who actually wrote this stuff because first and foremost we are huge music fans,” explained King Buzzo. This sentiment is palpable on what is their 300th album (unconfirmed.) Buzz and co. have never relinquished their fandom or their sense of humour. This makes their music something that is simultaneously jocular and illuminative, or in other words, unique. Every release is a gob-spit in the face of taking yourself seriously and a celebration of the garage majesty in which the Melvins revel so exceptionally.
At worst, cover albums breed animosity by making a crutch of familiarity. At best, they offer insight into the source material that the listener could never have fathomed, reminding us of why we need musicians in the first place. In this case, the Melvins have done us one better. In Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk, Ron Asheton, when asked about his obsession with Nazism, explained that when his mother used to dry his hair after his evening bath, he could hear a chorus of voices chanting “Sieg heil!” in the gauzy whirring of the blow dryer. On Everybody Loves Sausages, we get to peer through the cosmic keyhole into the minds of Buzz Osborne and Dale Crover and experience the sounds they hear when exposed to the gauzy whirrings of Bowie, The Fugs and Throbbing Gristle. You’d be well-advised to ditch your scruples and partake in the voyeurism.
The Ritualists – Painted People
The Ritualists play some determined, strong-willed music
After listening to Painted People by The Ritualists, I was very surprised to learn that this is their debut album. This band shows a maturity in their music that I would not expect from a first album and provides inspirational sounding tracks with ‘reach for the stars’ type of guitar riffs. I hear a modern version of U2 in The Ritualists, along with an influence of Radiohead. Their songs are full, wholehearted post-punk hooks with a lead singer that has a sizeable range.
“Rattles” opens the album, and it’s the type of song that shows their audience that they are here to stay. It has a great build-up of excitement and intensity. The band explains that this song is “A combination of dark, deep-pocketed verses juxtaposed with big, flashy choruses is a key element to tracks”.
“Ice Flower” and “Worthiest One” welcomes an electronic wave to the album and showcases just how impressive lead singer Christian Dryden’s range is. His ability to hit those high notes with such conviction puts my falsetto abilities to shame. “Worthiest One” brings this sort of nostalgic feeling- it’s a rock ballad with a floaty guitar riff.
“She’s The Sun” is a great follow-on from “Worthiest One” as it transfers the mood upwards and directs the music into more of a hypnotic vision, which conveys “the band’s inner Sixties Love Child”. “I’m With The Painted People” has a really relatable background to the song. Dryden felt a larger than life inspiration from people like David Bowie and Simon Le Bon, these artists felt like soulmates, which can be lonely at times. It wasn’t until he ventured out into the clubs of the lower east side of New York which helped him feel comfortable to express his creative vision freely. The song is all about finding like-minded people.
There are hooks galore and catchy choruses in pretty much every song. “With this record, I’ve specifically tried to be anthemic,” admits Dryden. “I’ve always loved going to shows, where immediately after the performance, and even on the ensuing days after, you just can’t help but remember and sing the songs you’ve just heard. It’s almost like a higher form of communication.” The Ritualists play some determined, strong-willed music and Painted People shows hints of variations with different genres explored throughout. They sound motivated and in return have produced motivating music for their listeners.
The Decline – Flash Gordon Ramsay Street
What The Decline get absolutely spot-on is their clinical, unrelenting brand of skate punk
It’s possible that since punk broke through to the mainstream in the mid to late ’90s, listeners outside of Australia think Frenzal Rhomb are the only band to have come from the lucky country. It’s true that during the rise of that Epitaph and Fat Wreck sound, Frenzal Rhomb became the namesake of the genre from Australia. However, Australian punks know that their history stretches long before the release of Survival of the Fattest. From the legendary sounds of The Saints to the rock n’ roll infused punk of Radio Birdman, Australia’s punk rock history is not only rich but very much precedes the genre’s mainstream explosion.
Frenzal Rhomb were another chapter in punk down under and for many, they opened a lot of doors. If not at the very least, proved that there were fertile grounds for new bands to emerge across the vast land. Western Australia’s The Decline formed in 2005 and quickly showed their talent for writing up-tempo melodicore that shred as much as it soared. From their 2010 debut, I’m Not Gonna Lie To You, it was clear that the band were equal parts snotty, urgent, funny, and melodic. Like the Frenzal Rhomb formula, they’ve got all of it in spades with a mean streak of Australianness that is both endearing and extremely relatable. Their latest album is no different.
From the title alone you can tell you’re in for a shedload of fun, and while it’s easy to think that Flash Gordon Ramsay Street is just goofy humor, it’s actually got a lot of pointed commentary too. From the animal-supportin’, veggie-lovin’, attack on meatlovers and meatheads (“Brovine”), to the real-estate market questioning “Smashed Avo”, there’s plenty of current talking points that The Decline run through. Sure, you also get vegan buffalo wing recipes (surprisingly, not the song titled “Bullet With Buffalo Wings”) and a love for The Legend of Zelda, but who says you can’t sing about Marxist theories while talking about your love for Nintendo?
What The Decline get absolutely spot-on is their clinical, unrelenting brand of skate punk; taking plenty of cues from the best of the NOFX / No Fun At All up-tempo, hardcore-derived brand of punk. The hooks on Flash Gordon Ramsey Street are as infectious as horny teens on spring break, highlighted by the endless harmonies on songs like the terrific “It Was Always You” and the call and response male-female vocal attack of “Verge Collection”. Brevity is also key, as the majority of the songs here never overstay their welcome with the longest clocking in at just 3:15 (the wistful closing of “Josh”).
Flash Gordon Ramsey Street is concise, to-the-point, and a furious medley of skate punk urgency that is relevant to young adult life as punks in Australia. Great production values to boot mean you can’t go wrong here.