In the post I wrote about the Wipers from December 2006, I mentioned that, someday, we planned to post some of the excellent covers of Wipers’/Greg Sage’s material. Well, patient reader, we’re finally making good on our promise. In the next week or two, Tom will write about covers by Nirvana, the Mono Men, and the Melvins, but I’m going to start with the much-lauded 8 Songs for Greg Sage and the Wipers, which Tim/Kerr Records released in 1992.
(Tim/Kerr Records, also called T/K at points, deserves a blog entry of its own, simply to emphasize (a) they have no affiliation with former Big Boy/Poison 13-er/Monkeywrecher Tim Kerr; (b) they have no affiliation with TK Records, home of KC and the Sunshine Band; (c) they released tons of great records by bands like Pond, the Wipers, Calamity Jane, Pere Ubu, Kurt Cobain-William Burroughs, Smegma, the Hellcows, and the Raincoats; and (d) they also released records by the god-damned Dandy Warhols and god-damned Everclear.)
(Jesus Christ. Everclear. No, god damn it. No, no, no.)
T/K expanded this compilation a year later, adding an additional six tracks by Nation of Ulysses, Calamity Jane, and others. We only have the original eight-song collection, which largely features other bands from the region, many of whom have a legitimate connection with the band. The label released the original as a set of singles, packaged in a silvery gray box. Now, for the track-by-track commentary.
Napalm Beach formed in 1980, and drummer Sam Henry had briefly played with the Wipers. They offer a grunged-out cover of “Potential Suicide.” Although Napalm Beach records were a constant presence in the bins at Cellophane Square in the late 80s, I don’t know much about the band itself. I like the songs on their myspace page. Good cover here.
M99’s cover of “Astro Cloud,” from Sage's 1985 solo record Straight Ahead, does little for me. Sage produced M99’s full-length Medicine, also released on T/K.
Nirvana had already become famous by the time this cover of “Return of the Rat” appeared. My assumption is that Nirvana’s fame allowed them to pick which song to cover, as I’d venture that everyone wanted to take a stab at the Wipers’ most well-known track. It’s not bad, but the Mono Men do it better.
Poison Idea almost reduces “Up Front” to a straightforward hardcore slam, but the song resists this treatment. Overall, I’ve never been a big fan of this band.
The Dharma Bums offer a countrified take on “On the Run,” also from the solo record. The Bums sound more like Counting Crows here than was generally the case in the late 80s/early 90s, but it’s still a decent cover.
Crackerbash do the debut’s “I Don’t Know What I Am” and “Mystery.” They make these songs their own, adding a Rites of Spring-like breathlessness to both tracks. We really need to write about these guys sometime.
Perhaps the best cover on this compilation is Hole’s shambolic take on “Over the Edge,” one of the best Wipers songs period and one that’s especially well suited to Courtney Love’s caterwauling (I mean that as a compliment). It sounds as if the engineer didn't properly mix the multiple tracks of vocals together, but this only adds to the appeal. Sloppy, angry, and despairing. I'll even go as far as to suggest that it's every bit as good as the original.
The Whirlees reimagine “Land of the Lost” as a butt-rocking fist-pumper. The vocals remind me of Trey Parker’s fake hard rock growl, but despite of this cover’s problems, I like it. I even rather like the changes they made to the chord progression. Tom hates it. It’s the Icky vs. Stumpy Joe battle revisited! The Whirlees released an eponymous record on Schizophrenic Records in 2003, recorded by Drew Canulette, who also produced Ultramega:OK; that’s all I know about them.
Here are the tracks:
Napalm Beach -- "Potential Suicide"
M99 -- "Astro Cloud"
Nirvana -- "Return of the Rat"
Poison Idea -- "Up Front"
The Dharma Bums -- "On the Run"
Crackerbash -- "I Don't Know What I Am"/"Mystery"
Hole -- "Over the Edge"
The Whirlees -- "Land of the Lost"
And the songs are also on the zip file here.