B-Sides the Point is a space for Loser City writers to pontificate on some of their favorite B-sides, tracks that frequently go unnoticed in band’s ouevres but nonetheless sometimes say more about them than their A-side. Up first is “No Covers,” the closing track on Mclusky’s “To Hell with Good Intentions” single, released by Too Pure Records in 2002, on the heels of the band’s landmark album Mclusky Do Dallas.
“What a fucking racket.” This was the first phrase I ever heard about Mclusky. I was in Dublin at the time, part of a school sponsored trip for students taking AP Human Geography. While my classmates were still in the Guinness factory gift shop, scouting out trinkets to bring back home to parents and siblings, I had gotten permission to pop into a small record store I had noticed nearby. The middle aged man at the counter had noticed me trawling the singles bin, where I had picked up Mclusky’s “To Hell with Good Intentions,” knowing nothing about the band but intrigued by the fact that they were on the Too Pure label.
“Not a fan?”
“It’s just a bunch of sludge and yelling.”
That right there was enough to sell me on it.
An artifact from a time when indie singles existed and had a handful of non-album tracks to pad out their runtimes, “To Hell with Good Intentions” was the best possible introduction to the world of Mclusky. It has a classic A-side in “To Hell with Good Intentions” itself but every single one of the B-sides included are vital, with “No Covers” standing out as the best of the bunch…so good, in fact, that it comes as no surprise that it initially popped up as the B-side to the “Lightsabre Cocksucking Blues” 7″. “No Covers” fits better as a partner to “To Hell with Good Intentions,” though, as it’s exactly the kind of sludge and yelling the old man was slagging, propelled by an offensively throbbing bassline that functions as a sibling to the more staccato bursts of “To Hell with Good Intentions.”
John Chapple’s bass opened a whole new world of possibilities in my teenage brain. I was already a fan of bass as a lead instrument, but in most cases that’s done in a melodic way. Chapple’s bass is undoubtedly the lead instrumental component in Mclusky, handling the heavy lifting of the chord arrangements since Andy Falkous’ guitar often stays out of the verses altogether, as is the case with “No Covers.” But you can’t quite call what Chapple does melodic. His playing is all thrust, antagonizing the rhythm, covered in so much distortion that most of the melodic elements disappear. That’s part of what makes “No Covers” a perfect Mclusky primer, it begins with a stupidly simple bass riff, swaying back and forth on a very short scale, before Matt Harding’s booming drums kick in and then Falkous shouts “If I can’t kill Kenny/Then I can’t do anything right.” This is the main Mclusky formula in a nutshell, but it never gets old, if anything the simplicity just keeps you coming back for more.
When I returned home with “To Hell with Good Intentions,” I had a new favorite band, even if all I knew of their output was one single. By the time I finally acquired a proper Mclusky album (the classic Mclusky Do Dallas), I wasn’t let down at all, but I was surprised to discover that the single’s three proceeding tracks didn’t make the cut, despite being amongst Mclusky’s best material. Usually it’s easy to understand why B-sides don’t make it onto albums, sometimes they’re undeveloped material but more frequently they’re good songs that just don’t fit the tone of the parent album. “No Covers” is neither, it still stands out as one of the band’s best songs, but in a way that kind of fits the general “fuck everything” vibe of Mclusky and the arc of their career. The band only lasted for three (perfect) albums and that made their single releases all the more worthwhile since the band treated them as vital creations in their own right, necessary detours for existing fans and ideal introductions for unsuspecting new devotees like I was.
Nick Hanover got his degree from Disneyland, but he’s the last of the secret agents and he’s your man. Which is to say you can find his particular style of espionage here at Loser City as well as Ovrld, where he contributes music reviews and writes a column on undiscovered Austin bands. You can also flip through his archives at Comics Bulletin, which he is formerly the Co-Managing Editor of, and Spectrum Culture, where he contributed literally hundreds of pieces for a few years. Or if you feel particularly adventurous, you can always witness his odd .gif battles with friends and enemies on twitter: @Nick_Hanover