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Mudhoney – [Album]

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Friday, 12 April 2013

It's so nice to have Mudhoney back. With some alt-rock and grunge bands trying to “change with the times” and alienating a lot of older fans with that ambition (see Jane's Addiction, Alice In Chains and The Melvins) and others trying to act like 1993 wasn't almost twenty years ago (see Soundgarden and the Smashing Pumpkins), it's nice to have a band with a bit of history in it making new music which feels new, but doesn't forget that history. Mudhoney manages to straddle that treacherous difference with its ninth studio effort in that it still sounds very much like a Mudhoney record (it's rough and rife with sarcasm as well as the sense of danger which powered Superfuzz Big Muff and Tomorrow Hit Today) and pulls no punches.

Fans who remember the excitement that Mudhoney was able to generate with the “West Coast answer to The Stooges” sound they commanded in the early Nineties will feel that same old greatness begin to creep in as Dan Peters' trademark drumming begins to warm the cylinders in “Slipping Away,” and it just explodes perfectly when Steve Turner's guitar and Guy Maddison's bass both crash into the mix. Here, Mudhoney doesn't try to re-present or reinvent the wheel, they just show listeners that it still turns the same as it always has – and it is good. There is no rust on the band and no more wear than there ever was before – Mark Arm's voice still straddles the line between anthemic and terrifying, Peters' drums run like a perpetual motion machine and Turner's guitar is a force of nature. This is not a sound which could be generated with some sterile, digital recording platform; it is one hundred per cent real and celebrates that fact fo four minutes and forty-four seconds. It's glorious and, before listeners have the chance to re-establish their center of gravity, the band delivers its second punch with the perfectly snide salvo that is “I Like It Small.” There, Mudhoney both revels in and spits on the current trend which has seen bands abandon major labels for smaller indies, releasing whatever they want on whichever format they choose. There is a sort of mean-spirited joy in Mark Arm's vocal delivery as he sums up the (supposed) modern mainstream music mindset (the list of “Minimum production, low yield, intimate settings, limited appeal, dingy basements, short runs, no expectations – wait I'm not done!” about says it all) in a tone which masterfully tips the sacred cow as much as it tips its hat to it. “I Like It Small” stands as the best proof that Mudhoney is right on top of its game; just like “Touch Me I'm Sick” did twenty-five years ago, “I Like It Small” tosses out a backhanded compliment and a bit of disrespect to the establishment all at once – and does it with style.

After Mudhoney proves to listeners that they've still got game with Vanishing Point's first two tracks, the band just keeps proving that they haven't lost a step as the album continues to unfold but, not only that, they also show listeners that they've learned a few new tricks too. Songs like “Chardonay,” “I on't Remember You” and “The Only Son Of The Widow From Nain” all stand as representative of the Mudhoney form; each is a bloody tirade which forgets to tap the brakes as the band flies through, only to be stopped by a brick wall at the end of each song and restarting the process again at the beginning of the next. It might not sound like it should be, but the results of that pattern are incredibly satisfying because, again, they illustrate that not only has Mudhoney not changed, they're still in good fighting shape. Not only that, but the going gets even better as songs like “What To Do With The Neutral” show that a bit of growth is still possible for grunge; there, Arm and Turner show listeners that commentary and self-analysis may be the keystone themes of the genre's songwriting practice, but they're only the beginning; there is some fantastic satire to be found for the bolder bands, and that's the next step. Granted, there isn't a lot of such style here (there's pretty much just that one song), but listeners will find themselves hoping that more will come on future Mudhoney albums.

Being able to even hope for “future Mudhoney albums” is the lasting element that listeners will be able to take away from this album. As stated at the beginning of this review, the last remaining grunge and alternative rock bands working have basically abandoned the form in favor of chasing whatever fans they can, but Mudhoney has declared pretty plainly that they're not going anywhere on Vanishing Point.

Artist:

www.mudhoneyonline.com/
www.myspace.com/mudhoney
www.facebook.com/Mudhoney/

Download:
Mudhoney – Vanishing Point – “The Only Son Of The Widow From Nain” – [mp3]
Mudhoney – Vanishing Point – “I Like It Small” – [mp3]

Album:

Vanishing Point is out now. Buy it here on Amazon .

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Mudhoney – [Album]

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Sunday, 22 June 2008

It’s funny how history mutates as events unfold. In 1988, for example, Mudhoney’s Superfuzz Bigmuff landed like an atomic bomb on record store shelves (to put perspective on the analogy, Nirvana's Nevermind did hit bigger a few years later—not unlike how a hydrogen bomb would) and college radio airwaves and forcing an epiphany in listeners at the same time. Granted, no one has ever intimated that the band invented grunge but, in those embryonic years, they were the genre’s first superstars. Need proof? When Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament “sold out” by forming Mother Love Bone, they were known as the members of Green River that weren’t in Mudhoney. The irony, of course, is that after the grunge explosion of 1992, Mudhoney founders Mark Arm and Steve Turner became known (and remain to this day) as the members of Green River who didn’t end up in Pearl Jam—So it goes.

But, for a short time, Mudhoney was unquestionably the band to look up to and envy. The first band that Sub Pop really pushed, they laid the blueprint for the aesthetic and model for success with Superfuzz Bigmuff in those early grunge days: sludgy, scruffy guitars, wry and condescending humor, pounding, cymbal-and-snare heavy drums, howled vocals that still had melody, those little necklaces and Jack Endino as producer. Listening back it to now, one can extrapolate the influence that the record would have almost immediately. While many sources have claimed that Nirvana was largely modelling what it was doing after Fugazi, The Pixies and other indie bands of the 80s, listening to Superfuzz Bigmuff now reveals a direct line between Mudhoney and the grimy, sketched out guitar work splattered all over Bleach and Incesticide, and Kurt Cobain’s howl in the early days (read: before he allowed himself to expose his love of The Beatles) sounds just like Mark Arm`s; grunge`s most iconic figure was certainly listening and learning from Mudhoney—even if he was loath to admit it.

Twenty years later, and listening to Mudhoney`s debut feels so alien in a lot of ways because no one in the mainstream is making music that sounds even a little bit similar. From the first burst of “Touch Me I’m Sick,” Mudhoney establishes both the vibe of the record and the one it would retain unwaveringly for the duration of its career: along with a fairly bleak and archly self-demeaning outlook, angry and biting guitars snarl, bitch and moan in complimentary tone to Arm’s caustic and occasionally unhinged yowl. These are sounds that don’t welcome an audience at all—and yet they were the battle cry for an entire generation’s disaffected youth; before Cobain articulated it with the words, “Load up on guns, Kill your friends—it’s fun to lose and to pretend,” Mudhoney scoffed, “I won’t live long, and I’m full of rot/ Gonna give you—girl—everything I got.” As if to more poignantly sum it up, while Nirvana ended saying, “Oh well, whatever—never mind” while Mudhoney simply grunted in conclusion.

The exhausted, attenuated and oozing “Sweet Young Thing Ain’t Sweet No More” is the perfect follow-up track to “Touch Me I’m Sick” in that regard. Mudhoney never bothered trying to write a radio-friendly hit—not even once – but “Sweet Young Thing,” along with “Need,” “No One Has,” “In ‘n’ Out Of Grace,” “You Got It (Keep It Out Of My Face)” and an honestly hilarious cover of Westlife’s “The Rose” represent where the band’s strength lay: scribbling songs that were equally angry and apathetic which, when combined, add up to being utterly dismissive. It isn’t always perfect and was never meant to be; more than any other band that wandered out of Washington State in the 90s, Mudhoney was possessed of the ability to sell their attitude in such a way that even their weaker moments seemed a head above their peers because it was as much commentary on music as it was music itself.

The reissue of Superfuzz Bigmuff comes repackaged with some additional tracks with some additional demo tracks as well as a second, live disc illustrating just how disturbingly infectious a live act the band could be. In spite of being remastered, the second disc still retains the gritty, fetid urges that Mudhoney commanded and, as a time capsule document for what was happening in the pre-Nirvana Seattle underground, it’s second to none. Anyone not accustomed to or expecting the grimy sounds that disc two houses will be put off; the sound quality is so spotty (there are two versions of “Touch Me I’m Sick,” for example, and the band’s amplifiers are so overdriven in both cases that they’re basically incomprehensible) that, anyone not accustomed to bootlegs from that time will probably hate it and question Mudhoney’s ability as a live act but, for those that know, there are treasonable moments buried in the mess like “Here Comes Sickness” and “By Her Own Hand”—you just have to look for them.

Even so, the grainy moments on the second disc do add something to the set. It isn’t clean or pristine, but neither was the band; in fact they relished in the filth. The reissue of Superfuzz Bigmuff is a great addition to Mudhoney’s legacy; as stated, they didn’t start the grunge revolution that swept bands like Warrant, INXS and Guns N’ Roses off the radar, but they were absolutely one of the bands that got legs under the movement. That Sub Pop has put this collection out now serves as an excellent reminder for that; before history gets rewritten again.

Artist:
www.subpop.com/artists/mudhoney
www.myspace.com/mudhoney

Album:
Mudhoney – Superfuzz Bigmuff (Deluxe Edition reissue, 2CD). Buy it NOW on Amazon!

Related Articles:
Mudhoney / Melvins w/ Flipper – A Special Engagement for the Don't Look Back Concert Series – [Live]

 

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