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.
Hatchie – Keepsake
Keepsake, the debut album by Brisbane dream pop artist Hatchie is musical luminescence that can only be described as music written for the stars
Brisbane indie-pop artist Hatchie (known to her friends and family as Harriette Pilbeam) is in the envious position of being a pop artist unspoiled by the many trappings of what it is to be a modern pop artist. Unlike some of her contemporaries who craft music by committee or with Sheeran-like self-importance, Hatchie is as of now, unsullied by the pressures of the cookie-cutter pop machine. Hatchie’s debut full length is a showcase for a talent who is supremely confident and composed in her abilities, and Keepsake is musical luminescence that can only be described as music written for the stars. The album is also a wonderful throwback to pop’s dreamy 60s influences that shuffle in and out of this delirium while working alongside distinctly more current musical touches.
There is the lush dream pop sounds of “Without a Blush”, taking cues from the best of what Stars and Goldfrapp conjure but heaping a tonne of Pilbeam’s charisma on it. Like her vocals, “Without a Blush” has this elegance that has the ability to elevate songs from being beautiful to grand. It is the kind of vocal elegance that really shines through on songs like the skittering, beat-driven “Obsessed” and the alternative, guitar-fuelled (yay!) “When I Get Out”. Indie/electronic closer “Keep” is a wonderful end to proceedings.
However, the great strength of Keepsake is not just its composure in how all the songs have been put together. It is also this genuine, natural-sounding quality that permeates the album- nothing overly written, overly produced or put together by research groups or music analysts. It just sounds like talent. We can argue that much of pop music is constructed to appease the moment- designed to grab as much attention as possible in an A.D.D. world. And sure, that can be said about almost any kind of music, but the resulting aural tone of Keepsake is anything but transient or transparent.
The best way to combat tepid chart-topping music is to write better pop songs. Songs like “Her Own Heart” and the disco-toned “Stay” are examples of pop music that come across as timeless. We are moved by the songs found on Keepsake when we listen to them today. And I suspect that in 10 years time, or in 20, we will most likely feel the same. It is rare to find the sort of ageless beauty you find on Keepsake.