Though there’s a special place in my heart for Mudhoney for reasons that I consider justifiable, there’s also the sentiment I carry that once you’ve heard Superfuzz Bigmuff you’ve pretty much heard them all. Some people are more meticulous in this notion and go so far as to say that once you’ve heard “Touch Me I’m Sick,” then there’s little else to savor. I personally am more forgiving in Mudhoney’s claustrophobic artistic charms.
The Lucky Ones is no exception to the heard them once, heard them all notion. This album is full of Mudhoney’s classic, grungy trademarks that gave Seattle a fleeting, but nonetheless creative spark of wonder and perversion. They’ve done little to defend themselves against accusations of Stooges ripping, mainly because they do it in spades evermore on here. Mark Arm’s vocals are no less sleazy than they used to be, guitar distortion rages to the amplified maximum. Arm’s lyrics represent much of the post-Superfuzz era: simplistically poetic as always, but depending more on the aphoristic and the anthemic rather than the pulpy dirt, disease, death and dogs.
There are some differences of course, some easy to notice, and some not, unless you really pay attention to these things. For one, since getting back together and getting back to Sub Pop, the band has been operating sans Matt Lukin, the ex-Melvins bassist in the band since the beginning. This is only a loss in ways of personality. Anyone, in effect, could play bass or drums for Mudhoney—in this case they have Guy Maddison as the new four-string functionary—but only those willing to “dumb” themselves down and fuck themselves up need apply, something all the members were, and possibly still are willing to do. The skill that requires one to play this dead dog punk rock is no doubt still there, but can he pig fuck his way out of a situation like the others? Frankly I haven’t noticed, but whatever.
One thing that is significant is that they are evermore honed in the studio. Polished, kind of pretty, but not too pretty of course. Mudhoney’s been known to derive its charm from a special incompetence that made their early work pure and primal. It drove the limey press to premature orgasm, until they realized (realised?) that the band was doing it for the sheer satisfaction of Sub Pop giving them the freedom to fuck around and not to impress them. Still, now they’ve continued their odd tradition of becoming a professional rock band, something Mark Arm and Steve Turner quit Green River over thinking it was simply not doable.
This is a good point though, it’s important to remember that Mudhoney was only intent on recording only the first single and quitting, this of course turned out not to be the case. So it’s not really a surprise to see that Mudhoney has even attempted to indulge themselves in going anymore serious with their sound than they already have. They represent one side of the spectrum in which primal simplicity is never a bad thing and stays true to punk’s no frills nature. The other side would be The Melvins who, since the dawn of their career, when Cobain was just a hanger-on and not a peer, have been reinventing their radical wheel to the utmost extremes. One can’t help but pat Arm and company on the back for doing what they love for more than two decades. I’m sure they won’t mind, nay, they’d perfectly understand, if most of us stick to the genuine article of their death grunge freakouts.
MP3: “I’m Now”