Saturday, August 28, 2010

Mudhoney (1989)

All due respect to Nirvana (and, I suppose, the slippery slope that begins with Soundgarden and ends on Pearl Jam), but Mudhoney for my money was the best band to come spinning out of the Seattle world domination grunge gesture of the late '80s and early '90s. They were all loud, but unlike their various brethren, Mudhoney was the most comfortable going foul-mouthed and playing it for laughs. They could be pretty funny too. Too often the rest were just sourpuss cases of pining earnestness, but Mark Arm & co. were seriously loose and freewheeling, a pleasure and a joy, the one band of them all most evidently plugged into their primal inner Stooges. Perhaps nowhere is it more in evidence than here, on their official debut (after singles and an EP), with such high points as "You Got It" ("Keep it outta my face"), "Here Comes Sickness," a kind of variation on the first single, "Touch Me I'm Sick," and, of course, the unbridled romp of "Flat Out Fucked." Nor were they merely obnoxious, as their calculated turn to reverb for the mysterious album kickoff, "The Gift," demonstrates, or especially when they literally architected sounds of the future with "When Tomorrow Hits," which Spacemen 3 (and later Spectrum, same diff) took and ran around the planet a few times. Somehow, and you may find yourself facing the same dilemma which is why I bring it up, it seems like listening to Mudhoney is going to involve a lot of effort, like a homework assignment. But that only lasts as long as it takes to actually put it on, let it play a few minutes, and adjust the volume appropriately. There is a surprising amount of complex layering to the sonics of what they're about, no shortage of creative grooves, and, when Mark Arm starts in with the yelping and roaring, some good yuks too. March to Fuzz offers the best widescreen picture, but short of that this is probably their best single album. Mudhoney: long may they wave.

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