Mudhoney, Superfuzz Bigmuff (Deluxe Edition)/The Lucky Ones
It’s almost inevitable that rock bands mellow out with age, packing up their drums and trading their overdrive pedals for acoustic guitars (or worse, philharmonic orchestras). And for whatever reason, it seems that the louder the band, the more mellow they become. So it’s nice to know that Mudhoney, who turns twenty this year, intends to do no such thing, celebrating with the release of two awesomely rough and raw albums: a deluxe edition of Superfuzz Bigmuff, and their latest, The Lucky Ones.
Those new to Mudhoney will quickly be bowled over by the aggression of singer Mark Arm’s relentless screams on Superfuzz Bigmuff‘s opening track, “Touch Me I’m Sick.” The weight of each gleefully violent, grungy line is mesmerizing, a fingerprint that can be found over all of the album’s songs, whether slow and thick (“Sweet Young Thing Ain’t Sweet No More,” “Mudride”) or frantic and driving (“Touch Me I’m Sick,” “In ‘n’ Out of Grace”). The overtly blasphemous opening words of “In ‘n’ Out of Grace” (“Jesus take me to a higher place / slidin’ in ‘n’ out of grace”) are foreplay, setting the stage for the middle of the song; the guitars simmer as the drums keep pounding, a low bubbling that heightens the anticipation of the maddening explosion to follow.
The deluxe edition comes with live recordings which hail all the way back to 1988 and include both a concert and a live radio performance. “Hey! We’re Mudhoney! How ya doin? … We’re from America!” Arm cheerfully pipes to what sounds like an anxious Berlin crowd. The concert recordings capture perfectly the sprawling energy of Mudhoney’s songs. On the other hand, the album could have done without the radio recordings, which are muffled to the point where the music is hardly recognizable.
For the most part, new effort The Lucky Ones is a solid album. Notable is the fact that it was recorded in only three and a half days, the shortest recording time in the band’s history. From the beginning of the opener, “I’m Now,” it’s clear that Mark Arm and company haven’t lost a step — “The past makes no sense / the future looks tense / I’m now!” he exclaims at the end of the chorus.
The rest of songs can be described as classic Mudhoney — abrasive, dark, and strangely funny — but unfortunately, there’s something missing that made their earlier stuff such as the Superfuzz Bigmuff hits so memorable. The album does present a couple of pleasant surprises, however. On “Next time,” lyrics that are sweet on paper turn creepy and stalkerish, intensified by the almost tribal tom beat that underlines it. “I’ve been thinking of you,” Arm growls, threatening with a predatory menace. Clocking in at under two and a half minutes, “The Open Mind” is striking in its directness, with lyrics like “Here comes another line with a hook for you to swallow” taunting the listener.
Though Mudhoney may get shortchanged in the music history books, they know very well who they are. Other grunge bands have long faded away and become has-beens; Mudhoney is able to look back and see two decades of uncompromised ass-kicking.