To some, grunge lives and dies with Pearl Jam. To others, it’s all-inclusive, welcoming the likes of non-Seattlite bands such as Stone Temple Pilots, Sponge or Bush. But to most, there is no grunge without Nirvana. Now, by the time the public was aware of the Seattle sound, as it came to be known, and Nirvana was on MTV, grunge had already existed for some time and even had some well-established pioneers in Soundgarden and Green River, and to a lesser extent, Malfunkshun. Once Green River’s members parted way, however, Jeff Ament and Stone Gossard formed Mother Love Bone (and later Pearl Jam), while Steve Turner and Mark Arm formed Mudhoney, the genre’s first superstars and legends. But most of all, Mudhoney was the first band to play grunge as we knew it.
While Soundgarden, Green River, Malfunkshun and Mother Love Bone all combined punk, metal and glam aesthetics in some form or another (Green River’s was more punk, Mother Love Bone more glam), Mudhoney used the intense rock destruction of The Stooges as a starting point, while beefing it up with Blue Cheer’s ultra-heavy psych-blues sound and some of the visceral attack of Pacific Northwest punks The Wipers. With that lethal combination of fuzzed-out sounds, the first essential grunge recording was born in “Touch Me I’m Sick” and subsequently, the band’s debut EP Superfuzz Bigmuff, named for two of the band’s most oft-used guitar pedals.
Just a few short years after the release of Mudhoney’s debut single and EP, Sub Pop saw fit to release a compilation of the two with a handful of the band’s other seven-inches on Superfuzz Bigmuff + Singles, which soon became the primer on both Mudhoney and grunge itself. Yet 20 years after the band unleashed their initial explosion of overdrive and mud, Sub Pop has repackaged the compilation once again into a two-disc `Deluxe Edition’ featuring extra tracks, demo versions and two live recordings.
Clearly, this new reissue differs from the previous incarnation in that it has a lot more material, but the tracklist is altered as well. Like before, the blistering, legendary single “Touch Me I’m Sick” kicks off the first disc, followed by the sludgy “Sweet Young Thing Ain’t Sweet No More,” but then bursts into the awesome “Twenty Four,” not included on the original CD. Revisiting these tracks merely proves how solid they are and how well they hold up over time. Steve Turner’s slide-crazy guitar on “Chain That Door” is dizzying, while the awesome “Mudride” revealed their soulful, bluesy side while retaining that destructive, collapse-at-any-moment sense of intensity. To this day, Mark Arm’s scratchy sneer is pretty much the quintessential rock `n’ roll singer’s voice.
The two live sets on the second disc merely provide more evidence of how much fun the group is in a live element. Arm’s greeting of “Hi, we’re Mudhoney, how ya doin’?” reveals much of the band’s personality in his inflection. It sounds a little smart-assed, but you can tell this guy’s down to party. And as such, the ensuing show rocks more than sufficiently hard. In 2008, Mudhoney still sells out shows to totally stoked audiences, while most of their peers have since broken up, joined Audioslave or, uh, are still in Pearl Jam. Even long after the dust has settled from Singles and “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” there is still Mudhoney, and Superfuzz Bigmuff is essential, nay required, listening for anyone who likes it loud.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.