Thursday, May 04, 2006

Mudhoney / Under a Billion Suns / Rating: 6.1

“Here's one more thing folks can blame on the Dubya Administration: the political awakening of Mudhoney.”

This review is months late and I wasn’t sure why I was stalling on this piece until this morning.

For those of you who aren’t regular readers in 1989 I was a high school senior and my favorite band wasn’t Nirvana who would soon to grow to be America's favorite, it was Mudhoney. Based on live performances in addition to the music found on their records, Mudhoney was the best band out of all the grunge rock outfits Seattle had to offer at the time and maybe still to this day. I didn’t just love this band, I made the teenage train wreck fashion mistake of wanting to look like them by wearing Mardi Gras beads, striped shirts, army shorts in winter with long johns, and even cut my hair back to my shoulders to mimic Mark Arm's. I shit you not, I took my love for all that was Sub Pop very seriously.

From age 17 to 21 I continued to collect Mudhoney records from their U.S pressings to German versions on new and exciting colors to Australian re-releases with new art and different colored vinyl. I worshiped their MC5 / Stooges / Blue Cheer ways and ignored their consistently bad lyrics which carried titles like "Touch me I’m Sick", "Flat Out Fucked", and "Here Comes Sickness". Politics however were left out of their beer soaked anthems and no matter how many times I read in modern day Mudhoney interviews the band trying to convince us they were always political, they weren’t, at least …forgive the pun, not on record. To dumb down the band to the most primal of descriptions, they were a sloppy but sonic party band who when drunk on stage could put on one of the most aggressive, explosive, and incredible live shows ever. While I have heard them sing "Fuck the Police", I have never heard a word uttered about the Republican Party…until now.

By 1992 and their first release on Reprise I was over Mudhoney and onto post-hardcore (Sunny Day, Cap’n Jazz, anything on Gravity). Here I am faced with another new Mudhoney record, nearly 20 years later and nearly 20 years after I was over them already.

The reality is I have been dreading this walk down memory lane via the return of this band. I am not one of those people who wishes they were still in high school nor do I attend most reunion shows because bands rarely stay in their prime. (Hell I don’t even go to my high school reunions.) Pitchfork describes this new record perfectly “What makes these weak attempts at earnestness all the more disappointing is that the music is great.” The music is great, even minus their original bass player Matt Lukin and even with addition of non-traditional Mudhoney-esque instrumentation… like a horn section. Mudhoney sound more sober and play tighter than ever (at least on the recording) but what’s missing is that essential unbridled energy and angst they once had. In its place is a political message where I hate to say, there should be none. If you didn’t know the old Mudhoney maybe their political tone could be taken more seriously but for anyone familiar with the band, listening to Mark Arm preach any sort of weighty message is a joke. Oh...and imagine that, a rock band taking a stand against the president or the war or the Republican party, save it for a Fat Wreck comp dudes. Not to sound insensitive to today’s political climate but I take Mudhoney’s lyrics as seriously as I would take Jessica Simpson addressing the American people about bio chemistry. Sure I could and have ignored Mudhoney lyrics in the past but now that I am in my 30’s, it’s a lot harder to do and in turn ruins what is otherwise a great record.

David Raposa gives a much more detailed blow by blow account of Under a Billion Suns but ultimately the feelings for the record are mutual and with that the rating stays the same