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Mudhoney

+ {The Thrown Ups} + {Mark Arm}

Seattle and Sub Pop: both things that identify with the grunge scene that emerged in the late 80s; NIRVANA, PEARL JAM, SOUNDGARDEN, ALICE IN CHAINS and MUDHONEY: its main conspirators. A foothold in the history of the genre and positioned within the ranks of at least two of the aforementioned bands, MUDHONEY were officially formed in Seattle, Washington in 1988. With a few shake-ups and the odd splinter here and there, singer/guitarist Mark Arm (born Mark McLaughlin), guitarist Steve Turner, drummer Dan Peters and Co, fused garage with nihilistic punk and took music back to a day when it could ride roughshod over psychedelia and folk-rock.
All seasoned campaigners from the Seattle scene, Mark and Steve had cut their teeth in the oft-billed “the worst band in the world”: Mr. Epp & The Calculations; although Steve was added in 1982 after the issue of the now rare EP, `Of Course I’m Happy, Why?’. Mr. Epp splintered into many different factions, most notably when the pair opted to join both GREEN RIVER (in ‘84) and side-project The THROWN UPS (from 1985 to 1991); the latter sprawling improv jam band were “thrown up” in ’84 by bassist John Beezer, his pal Steve Mack (who duly left to form THAT PETROL EMOTION with the musicians from The UNDERTONES), replacement singer Ed Fotheringham and guitarist Mike Faulhaber. Egged on by Beezer, Turner eventually joined up, while Mark Arm filled in as their drummer! Amphetamine Reptile released a trio of maxi-45s/EPs, `Felch’ and `Smiling Panties’ in ’87, and `Eat My Dump’, the year after. Prior to their inevitable demise, an eponymous LP was released in Germany, while its Stateside equivalent, MELANCHOLY GIRLHOLE BOX (1990) {*7}, surfaced as a triple-7” EP package.
MUDHONEY, meanwhile, were emerging as contenders to become the numero uno grunge act; Arm, Turner, Dan Peters (from Bundle Of Hiss) and original bassist from noise-mongers The MELVINS: Matt Lukin, lifting their moniker from an infamous Russ Meyer cult flick. A band boasting impeccable credentials, and with as much a claim to the “Godfathers of Grunge” crown as label-mates NIRVANA, the quartet released their definitive Sub Pop single in the summer of ’88: `Touch Me, I’m Sick’; initially intended as a B-side to flip, `Sweet Young Thing Ain’t Sweet No More’. Arguably one of the few tracks to ever match the primal howl of The STOOGES, the single was a revelation, a cathartically dumb three-chord bludgeon with Mark Arm shrieking over the top like a man who was… erm… very sick indeed.
A 12” EP/mini-set followed shortly afterwards, the wonderfully-titled SUPERFUZZ BIGMUFF {*7/*8 for the CD}; rather disappointingly named after Turner’s favourite effects pedals – apparently. Visceral, dirty, fuzz-drenched rock’n’roll, this was one of the seminal records of the late 80s and the blueprint for “grunge”, a term that would later become bastardised to represent a glut of snooze-worthy, sub-metal toss. There was also a deep, underlying sense of unease and melancholy to these songs (especially `No One Has’ and `Need’) that gave MUDHONEY an edge over most of their contemporaries, while a subsequent cover of SONIC YOUTH’s `Halloween’ – released as a split single with SY covering `Touch Me…’ – sounding positively evil. The EP itself, was later turned into a CD-album of sorts, adding all their early singles; etc. etc. for the deluxe edition in 2008.
Given all this, then, their Jack Endino-produced debut album proper, MUDHONEY {*7}, was regarded as something of a disappointment when it was finally released in late ‘89. Nevertheless, `This Gift’, `You Got It’ and `Here Comes Sickness’ (perfect explosive examples of pro-acid, neo-garage rawk) were worthy of the admission price alone, while the laggard `When Tomorrow Hits’ impressed the soon-to-be-missed SPACEMEN 3.
By summer ‘91, MUDHONEY had modified their sound somewhat, releasing the `Let It Slide’ EP as a taster for the forthcoming EVERY GOOD BOY DESERVES FUDGE {*8}; a UK Top 40 entry. The intensity of the EP harked back to “Superfuzz”, this time with more of a retro garage-punk feel on the blistering `Paperback Life’ and `Ounce Of Deception’. The Conrad Uno-produced album continued in this direction, adding funky – in the loosest sense of the term – Hammond organ and harmonica to the mutant guitar buzz. Hell, they even came close to a J&MC-styled alt-pop song with `Good Enough’.
Once again, not content to rest between releases, Arm (on piano, harmonica and some vocals) and Turner (on bass) were off to team up with other grunge-meisters in The MONKEYWRENCH, alongside guitarist Tom Price (of the U-MEN), label owner/guitarist Tim Kerr (of The BIG BOYS) and Australian sticksmen Martin Bland (of LUBRICATED GOAT); “Clean As A Broke-Dick Dog” was released early in 1992.
Following a financial dispute with Sub Pop, MUDHONEY followed NIRVANA into the big league, signing with Reprise Records and releasing the sloppy PIECE OF CAKE (1992) {*6}. Having sold their souls to the corporate “Devil”, it seemed MUDHONEY had had the life sucked out of them (`Suck You Dry’, a poignant title), the rough edges smoothed into a major production gloss. A heavy punk band or a goofball grunge act, the album had its moments by way of the almost STOOGES-cloned `I’m Spun’, `No End In Sight’ and the anthemic `Ritzville’,
Still, the set breeched the Top 200, their only ever record to do so; it also cracked the UK Top 40 again.
The mini, part-compilation album, FIVE DOLLAR BOB’S MOCK COOTER STEW (1993) {*6}, was an improvement of sorts, albeit with a couple of leftover takes such as `Make It Now Again’, completing the numbers. It took Seattle legend, Jack Endino, to summon forth the raw spontaneity of old on MY BROTHER THE COW (1995) {*7}, a return to “fuzz” form of sorts, notably on `Into Yer Shtik’, `F.D.K.’ (aka Fearless Doctor Killers) and `Generation Spokesmodel’.
MUDHONEY subsequently took a few years hiatus in which Arm went on tour with his side-project, Bloodloss, while Turner continued with his label, Super-Electro (MUDHONEY were allowed dual output for this imprint), while Peters guested for a solo Mike Johnson (of DINOSAUR JR).
In the autumn of ‘98, the quartet were back from detour duty, although the album TOMORROW HIT TODAY {*6}, disappointed the bulk of their hardcore fanbase. At least they stuck to the garage guns on regulation opening beauts, `A Thousand Forms Of Mind’ and `I Have To Laugh’; accusations that their sound was MC5 and The STOOGES re-incarnate, bothered them zilch. Anyhow, Arm and Turner had other things on their mind: the reunification of The MONKEYWRENCH on their post-millennium comeback set, “Electric Children”.
Recorded in just over a week, emboldened by blasts of neo-free jazz horns and adrenalized by an undertow of twisted gutter-funk, SINCE WE’VE BECOME TRANSLUCENT (2002) {*7}, was the sound of MUDHONEY rediscovering their mutant garage gene that made them so seminal in the first place. Taking over the vacant bassist position left by the departing Matt Lukin, Guy Maddison fitting in nicely to the dependable triumvirate. Their punk spirit had never subsided. Bookended by two of the group’s longest pieces ever, `Baby, Can You Dig The Light’ and `Sonic Infusion’, MUDHONEY also ground out slices of sludge and sleaze in `Where The Flavour Is’, the screeching `Our Time Is Now’ and `The Straight Life’. The only Sub Pop originals still kicking out the jams (they’d re-signed to the label), and much like British counterparts PRIMAL SCREAM, MUDHONEY had never given up on the transgressive power of rock’n’roll, while Mark Arm was about the only frontman around who barked with as much malice as Bobby Gillespie.
UNDER A BILLION SUNS (2006) {*7} still found them spitting venomous sludge, if tending to favour mid-tempo workouts over breakneck garage-punk. And on the lyrical evidence of laments like `I Saw The Light’ and `Hard-On For War’, Mark’s exasperation with human folly was just as acidic, a political awakening hardly unique for the times but welcome all the same.
In tandem with a third MONKEYWRENCH album (their second for Sub Pop), MUDHONEY marked their 20th year as a group with THE LUCKY ONES (2008) {*7}. Rolling back the years, or indeed decades, if one counted their idolatries and embryonic combos, the dirty honeys were far from lucky, more unlucky to be overshadowed by the surge of Kurt Cobain, his NIRVANA and the likes. Cynical, sarcastic and with a touch of irony not usually attributed to men from the U S of A, their menace and angst was still bulging from `What’s This Thing?’, `And The Shimmering Light’ and the very “1970”/STOOGES, `Next Time’.
If one wanted to taste the sounds of MUDHONEY makers, then there were a plethora of cover versions over the years:- `Hate The Police’ (The DICKS), `Revolution’ (SPACEMEN 3), `You Stupid Asshole’ (The ANGRY SAMOANS), `Who Is Who’ (The ADOLESCENTS), “Stab Your Back’ (The DAMNED), `The Money Will Roll Right In’ (FANG), `Over The Top’ (MOTORHEAD), `Fix Me’ (BLACK FLAG), `Pump It Up’ (ELVIS COSTELLO), `Dehumanized’ (VOID), `She’s Just 15’ (The MILKSHAKES), `You Give Me The Creeps’ (The CRUCIFUCKS), `Baby O Baby’ (SUICIDE), `Tonight I Think I’m Gonna Go Downtown’ (JIMMIE DALE GILMORE), `Buckskin Stallion Blues’ (TOWNES VAN ZANDT), `Editions Of You’ (ROXY MUSIC), `The Rose’ (Amanda McBroom), `Street Waves’ (PERE UBU) and `Gonna Make You’ (Fretcher-Page), `Urban Guerilla’ (HAWKWIND).
Probably a coincidence, but released in the same month (April 2013) as another comeback set for IGGY (POP) & THE STOOGES (“Ready To Die”), MUDHONEY’s first album for five years, VANISHING POINT {*7} re-kindled their frantic and “Funtime” brand of rawk. Whether the sing-a-long `I Like It Small’ couldn’t exactly be shouted from the rooftops from any sane fan (the better option was head-banging to short-stint, `Chardonnay’), the stylish set had moments of renaissance ‘Honey in opener `Slipping Away’, `The Only Son Of The Widow From Nain’, `Sing This Song Of Joy’ and the glorious `Douchebags On Parade’. Better option still, kids of America, trade your FALL OUT BOY records for the esteemed works of MUDHONEY.
On the back of a low-key “Live in Europe, 2016” LP entitled LiE (2018) {*7} – featuring all the usual suspects – MUDHONEY were finally crunching (or even grunge-ing) the numbers again with studio set, the cathartic protest record DIGITAL GARBAGE (2018) {*8}. One doesn’t suppose the Teflon Don would be aware of these Mud-slingers, but if he lent an ear to `Please Mr. Gunman’, maybe he’d empathise with the crazies in America allowing other crazies to bear arms – or maybe not! Indeed, Mark Arm and Co, certainly had a few pops at his nation’s many foibles, including its right-wing “fake news” agenda (`Paranoid Core’), cultural capitalist greed (`Prosperity Gospel’), evangelical hypocrites (`21st Century Pharisees’ and `Messiah’s Lament’), and the possible – nay probable – lemming-mania Trump trip to oblivion (from `Nerve Attack’ to `Next Mass Extinction’).
© MC Strong 1994-2006/MCS/BG-GRD / rev-up MCS Apr2013-Oct2018

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