Lagniappe (la·gniappe) noun ˈlan-ˌyap,’ – 1. An extra or unexpected gift or benefit. 2. Something given or obtained as a gratuity or bonus.
For more than two decades, Ben Chasny’s Six Organs of Admittance has taken on many forms, from full-band blowouts to spectral acoustic balladry, from esoteric approaches to free-form explorations. Wherever he goes, he’s always worth following. For his debut Lagniappe Session, Ben has re-imagined three Melvins songs, paying righteous tribute to the long-running Washington state rockers. Below, he gives us a little insight into the staying power of this classic band.
Covering the Melvins is an audacious project. For any band to think they could cover their music is pretty foolish and wrong. It is definitely extra risky for an acoustic band that is not particularly into the move where an acoustic band/musician covers a genre that is (oh-so-crazily!) different from the original. By now it’s a trope and usually done with some sort of winky-wink, “Hey, I know of these heavier musics but look at me, I can make it all mellow, isn’t this cute and listenable?” So I was a bit hesitant to even execute this but in the end it’s my love for the band that made me do it.
Another hesitation is that the Melvins have been so influential on my general writing that I was afraid if I let the cat out of the bag everyone would realize I really only had three cats in that bag and now I will have to guard the other two extra vigilantly.
King Buzzo is not given enough credit for his lyrics. I suppose that might be because nobody can understand what the hell he is singing most of the time. But once you get down to the words you can see how he plays with language in a way that holds the sounds of the words as high as the standard meanings, playing with consonants and vowels more like a sound poet than the lord of amplifiers.
Buzz has also gone on record as saying you shouldn’t trust anyone who doesn’t like the Beatles. I have a hunch that this love of songs as art-form is not only what separates the Melvins from those that think only in terms of heaviness but is also a major part of his creative engine that allows him to be a beast of productivity that shows no sign of slowing down. Even a song like “Hung Bunny,” which I’d claim is a foundational text for current explorations of walls of sonics, has an underlying focus on chordal dynamics that is more in line with the outro to “She’s So Heavy” than anything else.
Of course, the Melvins are more than just Buzz. But in this project of covering their music, where I am not playing drums or bass, I will not be writing about that as much. But there is no Melvins without Dale Crover. Need to mention that. They also have a knack for getting the most killer bass players, so I want to recognize that too – Joe Preston, Lorax, Jared Warren, and so many more.
The songs I’ve done here tend toward the early years but it’s not because I don’t think their newer work is fantastic. It’s just too hard for me to try to figure out those riffs and the harmonies. I’m a lazy-ass. Melvins are not. In fact, the full live show of Melvins at Hellfest when they had recruited Jared and Coady from Big Business and play a non-stop set has to be one of the best things on YouTube (I saw them do this type of set a few times live and of course it was a billion times better and heavier than watching this little screen). After watching it, one has to ask: just how much do these guys practice? Goddamn! Get outside and put down the instruments once in a while, guys. Jesus.
One of the many admirable things about the Melvins is their refusal to let themselves be pigeonholed into any genre even though, lord knows, it would have been the easiest thing in the world with the way music industry works. From the terms “sludge” to “stoner” to “grunge,” they just sidestepped every genre label like a judo master. There’s also no need to put some heavy and scary shit on your record cover when you are the one of the heaviest bands ever. It sort of reminds me of Coil’s decision to start wearing big fluffy snow creature outfits because they realized their music was scary enough (of course that made them even more scary).
All these songs I do here are pretty classic in their catalogue. If you’ve only ever heard “Night Goat” from the Houdini record, I definitely recommend checking out the earlier 7” version, which has a bass tone that sounds like what I imagine the world would sound like if it ever vomited. Not the people of the world. The World. Earth. If the Earth ever vomits, the tone will be that of the “Night Goat” bass. “With Teeth” is one of my top three most listened to songs of all time and I have such a reverence for it I would never, ever, EVER borrow the chord progression for one of my own songs. I extended the beginning with some vocals as a bit of a nod to the first side of the record. And you all know “Boris.” Not much else to say about these. I did these songs for fun and for myself I suppose. Though they can’t compare to the originals, hopefully someone will get a kick out of them.
* I use “the” before their name here and there as technically they are just Melvins, but it is just sort of standard now. No way around it sometimes.
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