It's hard to believe it was 20 years ago that Mudhoney released Superfuzz Bigmuff. Grunge was already a going concern by then, as a genre if not a marketing term, and that record lit a fire under it. Sub Pop Records, also celebrating its 20th anniversary, recently gave the six-song EP the deluxe reissue treatment, enhancing it with a bunch of singles and compilation tracks from the same era--including the band's classic debut, "Touch Me I'm Sick"--as well as a disc of live material taped in Berlin and Santa Barbara in the fall of '88.
To my ears it holds up pretty well, especially ferocious tracks like "In 'n' Out of Grace" and the cover of the Dicks' "Hate the Police." But Mudhoney would never again equal the quality of that initial outpouring.
That said, the band's new studio album, The Lucky Ones, is the best one they've made in more than 15 years. Cut in just under four days, it's simple and direct, playing to Mudhoney's strengths (though it's not like they ever got too elaborate). Mark Arm put down his axe for these sessions, leaving Steve Turner as the only guitarist, which doesn't make much sense to me--it's not like he really needs to forgo slamming away at a guitar in order to get the most out of his nasty sneer of a voice. But the tempos are brisk, the band's massive stomp satisfyingly primal. Mudhoney's debt to the Stooges has never been clearer, both in Arm's wordless grunts and howls and the pounding one-note piano part on the opening track, "I'm Now." Sometimes the band wades into more cosmic territory, like on "And the Shimmering Lights," but never for too long. Mudhoney kick off their U.S. tour on Friday with a gig at Reggie's Rock Club.
David Rosenboom, Future Travel (New World)
Loud Family, Attractive Nuisance (Alias)
George Flynn, American Rest (Southport)
Dillinger, CB2000/Bionic Dread (Hip-O Select/Island)
Jacques Berrocal, Dominique Coster & Roger Ferlet, Musiq Musik (Fractal/Futura)