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- Mudhoney »
Twenty years, then. Jesus, it really is that long. What happened to all that time?!
It's worth looking back a little to get a wee bit of (perhaps biased) perspective. To this proto-grunger stuck in a dull seaside town the late UK '80s, the indie scene seemed to be overly dominated by the fag end of shambling, Midlands grebo, rumblings from the baggy North and the rise of Goth! Sure, there was the US Underground too… the more discerning and adventurous were turning onto Sonic Youth, the Buttholes, Big Black, Dinosaur Jr (and let’s not forget some cool UK bands, too - Loop, Spacemen 3, MBV et cetera), and hardcore possibly. Clever folks were also delving back into obscure ‘60s garage and psych, and maybe (just maybe) a bit of classic metal to boot. It was a fractured and diverse scene, but really exciting! And then...
Rumblings in the weekly music press and on Peel, about Seattle and this label Sub Pop, began to spread. We were all suckered into the hype - but damn, it was so good. Mudhoney weren't so much a new sound - more like the logical next step. Here was a band who fused together some mythic music we'd maybe read about and, if we were lucky (and could track down some old vinyl, if we knew WHERE to look), actually HEARD. The band’s early London shows went a long way to cementing their total godhead status. Stage invasions, drunken pratfalls and busted guitars. A riot of fuzz guitar! Speed! Hair! Total abandon! This wasn't like going to see your average indie band. Then, after the initial press rush, it stalled a bit. Post Nirvana, in 1991, there was a grunge revival of sorts, but we all know the ending of that story. But Mudhoney rolled on.
A not-so-great debut for major label Reprise represented the band’s low point for some, but even Piece Of Cake has some cool tunes on it – ‘Suck You Dry’, anyone? Then, a slow decline – not in music, check out My Brother The Cow _and the lost classic that is _Tomorrow Hit Today, but in stature, in profile. Folks just started looking the other way. When Mudhoney played London ten years ago it was at the almost, but not quite, sold-out Garage in Islington. Couple of hundred people, max. So ten years on, what's made the difference? Just keeping on I guess. Not stopping. Carrying on into your 40s._ NOT _doing it for fame and money, but doing it because it's fun. Making consistently good records and playing damn fine live shows. What else is there to do?
So, on a ridiculously humid late July night that refuses to break into a full-on storm, the Mudhoney show rolls in fresh from blowing my mind at SP20 in Seattle. An_ almost_ full Kentish Town Forum deals with The Country Teasers’ set with a bemused detachment, and a fair bit of heckling, too. There're dads here with their kids in matching tour t-shirts. It REALLY has been that long - damn! On this one-date UK jaunt, Mudhoney pull out all the stops and deliver another classic live set. Kicking off with their cover of the Fang standard ‘The Money Will Roll Right In’, it's a leaner and more punk-rock Mudhoney than we've seen in the UK in recent years. With the set heavy on tracks from new long-player _The Lucky Ones we're treated to a guitar-less Mark Am prowling the stage. He's part Iggy, part Jello Biafra, but really a unique force of nature; a sinewy ball of energy with a coruscating howl. I've said it before (and I'll keep on saying it 'til you agree with me!), but is there a better front man in punk-rock? Er... no!
We're battered with new tunes - short, sharp and to the point. ‘Next Time’ is a syncopated Stooge-ian blast, whilst ‘The Lucky Ones’ is a call to arms for those left standing. It's been a long, dusty and dangerous trail. ‘Inside Job’ showcases a bluesy, Stonesy vibe to the band. Steve Turner pulls and twists at his guitar, pumping out one garage fuzzed-out lick after another. ‘In And Out Of Grace’ just destroys, as ever - a blistering riff that descends into a mammoth Danny Peters drum workout and squalling wall of feedback that crashes in on itself. ‘You Got It’ starts slow then winds itself up into sneering put down of a track: “Keep it out of my face!!”
‘Sweet Young Thing…’ descends into a one-note scream of pain, whilst new-ish bassist (he's been in the band now for nearly a decade, mind) Guy Maddison keeps it all together stage left, hammering at one note as the song climax builds and builds. The talismanic ‘Touch Me I'm Sick’ sees a good natured pit extend almost to the mixing desk at the back of the hall. Damn, these songs just transport me to sonic heaven! A rampaging encore sees Arm working the vast stage, pulling shapes as they run through a brace of covers and new tracks. Black Flag’s 'Fix Me' is the culmination of a rollicking show. "Fix me / Fix my head / Fix me please, I don't be wanna be dead!” Words to live by!
I leave a sweaty mess, feeling like a teenager again, with a tour shirt clutched in my mitts, a smile on my face and a glow in my heart.
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