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“Mudhoney: Like a White Bad Brains”

Bear in mind I’m writing this from the Midwest, where people can be pretty, uh, simple, regarding what bands of which they’ve heard. I realize a lot of people have heard of Mudhoney.
Somewhere along the line, somehow, I think my standards for rock music ballooned out of control; either that or everyone else’s are too low. So, again, I realize Mudhoney existed a while ago, but who’s been better since? Nirvana and not Queens of the Stone Age, though they’re comparable. Green Day is better, but their music is not as intrinsically and viscerally rock. They only have one guitar player, Mudhoney has two.
For a second I had to think while writing that last sentence: should I use the present tense? I’m so used to using it when discussing the music on the album, the historical present being appropriate for any art that still has an effect, but I realized it would be appropriate anyway because the band is still in existence; they’ve been putting out albums every couple years for the last two decades, just like Sonic Youth. On an unrelated note, Thurston Moore has been interviewed in a Mudhoney t-shirt, and in the liner notes of one of the Mudhoney albums, singer Mark Arm is seen in Sonic Youth garb.
More to my point, it’s commendable that Mudhoney has kept up such longevity, because, by their third album, they had already forged a path that battered equally punk and grunge. And their new stuff isn’t bad; what’s more, they don’t veer to one side or the other — they stay striking the complete balance between the two.
Their second album would be their self-titled one. Sonically and stylistically it matches their first “album,” although in a way it is their first one, because “Superfuzz Bigmuff” was actually an EP, eventually released with six songs as an addendum as Superfuzz Bigmuff/Early Singles.
“This Gift” powers ahead with full-band mayhem as if Mudhoney are still trying to prove their muscle. And this they do, but it makes the album sound like a retread to critics of the studio project; that is, until “Come to Mind,” track 06.
I’d be better able to diagnose just what Mudhoney did with “Come to Mind” had I been an active listener to rock music in the year 1990, but I was pretty young then. The general sentiment is that the band “set the tone” with their sound. It is important to consider whether or not they actually did this, because it decides if they are pioneers or followers, and with just the sheer date of the album, I’d say it sounds ahead of its time, and that they did probably act as a certain trailblazer for rock.
If a musical cataclysm is akin to playing with a toy bowling set, where maybe your sister sets up the pins and you knock them down by chucking the ball at them, “Come to Mind” set up what Nirvana’s “In Bloom” knocked down; that is to say nobody after the latter could improve upon grunge, and this couldn’t have come without “Come to Mind.” Somewhere in Nirvana: the Biography the author makes a comment about a situation that to him typified grunge: someone passed out in a decrepit house with a heroin needle lying next to them, and Mudhoney’s “Touch Me I’m Sick” playing from a stereo. Part of what makes “Come to Mind” so great is that it sounds like it’s something that sucks. It’s the sludge, the grind of the day. There’s a brutal repetition at work of the riff, giving an atmosphere of utter gruesomeness; and then the subdominant chord lingers in the chorus as a testament to the band’s patience, or stamina, or tolerance for cloudy days up in the Northwest, however you want to interpret it.
Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge is full-band rock as punk, taken to the greatest extent. It’s full of crisp, tight three-minute rockers, whereas “Come to Mind” is close to six. Even though they’re catchy, the songs do justice to the highest sonic standards, and are easier to snuggle into after seventh listen than they are to entertain after first, as they’re just abrasive enough. More than anything, they round off Mudhoney’s achievement — deafening vanguard followed by the sort of beautiful self-mockery that should have landed them much higher on the billboard charts.

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