Mudhoney are one of those bands whose body of work means something. Like say, Mogwai or The Coral, there’s a level of self-coruscating intent in their work that usually leaves me intrigued. The idea of Mudhoney, the fact that they’re shredding their instruments deadlier than most, whatever the musical climate, is something to be celebrated in itself. I suspect that a Mudhoney Pokemon card would be able to move something treble its value through walls. It’s a bonus that this, the band’s second album with Arm of Bloodloss bassist Guy Maddison, is one of their strongest efforts in the tune department.
Mudhoney would most likely be considered the definitive Seattle band and Sub Pop band, that is if they hadn’t already transcended both tags. They’ve been referred to as “godfathers of Grunge,” due to an understandable influence and location. However it’s a deceptive label. Mudhoney rock like the Stooges and Andy Kaufman. There’s carefree abandon, a happy, angry fuzz around the edges. They sound vexed rather than tormented.
Under a Billion Suns is the bands ninth effort, following 2004’s horn-imbued comeback Since We’ve Become Translucent. Again, we find a band walking the line between sticking to their strengths and diversification ably. This is a standout, almost a “classic” (in the sense of beer bellies, mid-life crises, and superb arrangements) rock’n’roll album. The opening “Where Is the Future?” testifies as Sabbath gone Gospel. “I Saw the Light” drags a Bo Diddley Beat through the swamp (opening line: “You went down like a nuclear bomb“). “Empty Shells” is an immaculate, psychedelic rant, approximating the Stooges by way of Live at Leeds. The truth-inducing abandon I referred to is still prominently displayed. “Hard-On For War” mocks and mauls where most would whine. Arm howls “It’s our Patriotic duty to make sweet love tonight“, and laughs that he’s the only game in town. It’s not quite as seamy as alpha-blues can be though. The song concludes: “now I know why dirty old men are always pushing for war.”
“A Brief Celebration of Indifference” reverberates like the Yardbirds through an Albini filter. “On the Move” turns jagged post-punk nihilism into D.C Comics high-camp deliverance. It says something without having to. The closing “Blindspots” is in Who territory again, with a grit that’s inimitable. A verses confides “The more that you keep talking baby, the more I’m glad the less I hear“; the chorus proclaiming “second best is the best, deep down” before peaking out as an uplifting Stax finale. Under A Billion Suns gave me everything I expected from a Mudhoney release, with no end of surprises—polished, rock’n’roll perfection that wrenches and brightens your soul.
The Catheters-Static Delusions and Stone Still Days
The Who- Live at Leeds
Iggy and The Stooges- Fun House