Top 10 Melvins Classic Rock Covers
The Melvins haven’t gotten much classic rock airplay over their nearly thirty-year long career, and it doesn’t look like that’s changing anytime soon. Which is kinda silly, because the band’s roots reach just as deeply into rock as they do into punk and metal.
As proof, we offer this list of the Top 10 Melvins Classic Rock Covers, featuring their sometimes faithful, sometimes irreverent and typically excellent versions of songs by legends ranging from Alice Cooper and Paul McCartney to the Who and Pink Floyd. Enjoy!
The Melvins have covered several Kiss tracks over their career, and even released their own set of simultaneous solo albums back in 1992. Here they tackle one of the darkest, weirdest songs Gene Simmons ever wrote — a downright creepy tale of the love between a 16 year old girl and a 93 year old man losing his sight. It certainly wasn’t lacking for menace when it originally appeared on Kiss’s 1974 sophomore album ‘Hotter than Hell,’ but King Buzzo nearly outgrowls the Demon on this version.
This highly unlikely Melvins classic rock cover finds the group tackling one of Queen’s most gooey love songs in a completely irony-free manner, and with the help of what sounds like a few dozen vintage video game soundboards in place of the original’s warm keyboards. On paper, this should be an annoying mismatch, but of course, somehow it all works.
For one of their earliest covers, the Melvins run though the title track from the sophomore album by new wave pioneers the Cars on their own second album. As you’d expect, the icy synth-heavy cool of the original version is de-emphasized in favor of a raw, guitar-dominated attack. This combines with Osbourne’s bellowing vocals to put across the desperation of the song’s lyrics quite nicely.
How do you reinterpret one of the most famous songs in classic rock history? Well, if you’re the Melvins, you slow it down to a thick, bass-emphasizing crawl, set your two (!) drummers loose to deliver dramatic fills, and replace Roger Daltrey’s stuttering vocal delivery with drawn-out gang vocals that sound like something you’d hear around closing time at a bar full of pirates.
The Melvins push The Kinks’ already punkish anti-moping anthem from 1979’s ‘Low Budget’ deep into the red on their 2013 all-covers album. As Osbourne quips in the liner notes, “The Kinks recorded this around the time they were raking in royalties from Van Halen‘s cover of ‘You Really Got Me.’ Unfortunately, they won’t be making anywhere near as much from this.”
Perversely removing alll traces of groove and boogie from this 1972 glam-rock classic, the Melvins instead build their version with skeletal drums and big chunks of fuzz. This puts the emphasis squarely on the haunting, heavenly vocals, offering a new perspective on the original. Which, of course, is what a good cover is supposed to do.
‘The Ballad of Dwight Fry’
Much as they’ve done with his fellow shock-rockers Kiss, the Melvins have recorded several Alice Cooper covers over the years. Our favorite is their tastefully muted take on this classic from the original Alice Cooper Band’s 1971 opus ‘Love it to Death.’ However, we’ve also got a special place in our hearts for their 2005 version of ‘Halo of Flies‘ featuring none other than Jello Biafra on lead vocals.
Although he was bored by the repeated tales of hotel trashings and rock and roll excess in the music magazines he read, a young Buzz Osbourne did notice that “David Bowie looked pretty insane and his music was certainly like nothing I had ever heard.” Years later, the influence becomes clear via the Melvins’ muscular cover of the Thin White Duke’s grandest epic — 10 minutes of steadily building energy that once again showcases the skills of the group’s other permanent member, drummer Dale Crover.
Aside from pushing the guitars up in the mix, the Melvins show their range simply by largely staying faithful to the original on their no-drugs-required version of the opening instrumental from Pink Floyd’s 1967 psychedelic debut ‘The Piper at the Gates of Dawn.’
‘Let Me Roll It’
Even at his wildest, solo Paul McCartney music may seem a bit tame for the Melvins to sink their teeth into at first. But the jagged guitar stabs and lurching pace of this 1973 ‘Band on the Run’ album track actually proves to be a perfect match for the group, operating for the first time under their three-piece, acoustic bass-employing “Melvins Lite’ moniker. We probably should make some big dramatic point that sums up all the music we’ve heard on this list right about now, huh? Oh well!