Melvins have being going strong for almost two decades and show no signs of stopping, despite the on-going bass player switch (good-bye, Kevin) that has become downright comedic. They have influenced… blah blah blah. Everyone should know by now that Kurt Cobain would never have gotten the gumption to form a band were it not for Buzzo and Dale. Much press has been devoted to their influence, most notably a hysterical interview with Buzz and Kim Thayil in Guitar World Magazine wherein the guitarist for Soundgarden practically blows his hero who, it seems, couldn’t care less. Sure, they influenced a host of bands but what seems more interesting is that they have out lasted them all. Is there any other band with Seattle roots that is still around? Pearl Jam, you say? Do they still make records? Does anyone give a damn? Put the last Pearl Jam CD up against Pigs of the Roman Empire and see which is more ambitious and which sounds like fucking dinner music.
To be sure, Melvins are one of the most important bands of the last 20 years and they continue to be relevant and make music that challenges while adhering to their own aesthetic. And obviously they have a slew of admirers, as evidenced by this record. Inevitably, all tribute records are doomed to sound uneven and thrown together and fans will usually pitch a fit when they hear their favorite song rerecorded. It makes one wonder why anyone would ever make a tribute record in the first place. Considering the Melvins’ sound continues to defy classification (“Post-rock” they were once called. Laughable. Even a former writer for this publication made reference to them being “the world’s slowest punk band.” Ridiculous), it stands to reason that one might assemble the most eclectic group of rock musicians to represent the entire scope of the Melvins. Instead we have a bunch of metal bands doing their best, which sometimes is quite bad.
We Reach: The Music of the Melvins compilation CD [Fractured Transmitter] features 18 tracks that suffer at times, but deliver enough interesting takes on the Melvins’ back catalog to please the cretins and intrigue the open minded. “Nightgoat” by Mare is by far the most radically different cover, sounding nothing like the original. This is good. If I wanted to hear “Nightgoat” by the Melvins I would put Houdini in the CD player. Still, hearing a faithful cover can be elating as well, even if it seems superfluous. “Copache” by Maritime Murder and “Boris”, a joint effort from Isis and Agoraphobic Nosebleed both capture the Melvins sound rather well and hearing them allows us fans to feel as though we too are in the know—we share this appreciation with these bands. Our little gems are treasured by many. We are part of that lattice thing Dave Eggers blathers on about. To use a Melvins’ song title, “See how pretty, see how smart”. But still, these versions leave little room for interpretation. It’s a quandary.
Pig Destroyer, Dog Fashion Disco and The Dillenger Escape Plan all appear to represent the RAWK! But my favorites on this record cuts are the cuts that walk a fine line between faithful and playful. Made Out of Babies manages this with their cover of “Bar X and the Rocking M”, as does CKY/Gnarkill who admirably covered “Laughing With Lucifer at Satan’s Sideshow”. Other notables include Absentee’s version of “Revolve” and Meatjack’s “Shevil”, both sounding fresh enough to make me want to break out my copy of Stoner Witch. The only real disappointments are from Strapping Young Lad who make “Zodiac” sound like absolute garbage (Brutal Truth recorded an incredible version of this song years ago that would have fared considerably better) and Blessing the Hog’s appropriate choice, “Hogleg”. Both suffer from neü metal vocals that sound just plain silly.
I can’t believe no one covered “Skin Horse” or the entire Colossus of Destiny CD! Ha ha hahaha! Okay, that would be funny if you were a Melvins goon, but if you aren’t… wait, why aren’t you?
Overall, We Reach gets an A for effort but a B-minus for the total package. If you’re a Melvins fan you will be disappointed and delighted all at once. Then again, if you’re a real Melvins fan you’ll be ready for anything.