Review Summary: A solid, though very unspectacular latest effort from Mudhoney on their twentieth birthday.
It has been said many times before, but that makes it no less true; Mudhoney are one of the most criminally overlooked bands ever. They were one of the bands who helped define the sound of the Seattle scene in the late eighties and early nineties, and were a major influence on the bands such as Pearl Jam, Alice In Chains, Soundgarden and Nirvana who brought it to the mainstream. It was in fact Mudhoneys vocalist, Mark Arm who first coined the term ‘grunge,’ a term by which the genre has become universally known.
Mudhoneys origins lay with Green River, who are often credited as being the very first grunge band. After Green River split up, singer Mark Arm and guitarist Steve Turner formed Mudhoney, whilst the others went on to form Mother Love Bone, and later Pearl Jam. Mudhoney quickly made a name for themselves on the back of some terrific early singles and the still highly regarded Superfuzz Bigmuff
EP. This was followed-up by an excellent full-length debut, which positioned Mudhoney amongst the grunge bands most likely to break into the mainstream. When the grunge explosion of the early nineties did take place however, Mudhoney were left behind, whilst bands they had inspired such as those mentioned earlier went on to claim huge success. The reasons for this remain unclear, as Mudhoneys music contains every element associated with grunge, most notably the fuzzed-up guitars which became one of the bands trademarks.
Throughout the grunge wave, Mudhoney continued to release excellent material, but were always overlooked, despite temporarily leaving Sub Pop for major label Reprise. They continued with this consistency after the genre had burnt out, and even 2006’s Under A Billion Suns
proved a solid effort despite all band members being well into their forties. Their latest album, The Lucky Ones
was released to coincide with the twentieth anniversaries of both the band and their current label Sub Pop, whom they returned to in 2000. To many casual listeners, this new album will sound very similar to pretty much everything else Mudhoney have released over the past twenty years. Such claims are not totally without truth, as the band doesn’t break any new ground musically, as the formula used is essentially the same as it has always been. The Lucky Ones
is nevertheless very different to anything Mudhoney have done before.
Most of the characteristics you would expect from Mudhoney are present in here, the rough vocals, feedback and, of course the fuzzy guitar sound. The closest they come to their classic sound is on the title track, a slow dirty sounding song that would not sound too out of place on Superfuzz Bigmuff
. Otherwise, the general sound here is that of sixties garage rock, a sound the band has used before, though never quite to this extent. Opener I’m Now
is probably the best example of this, with simple riffs, drums and a catchy chorus which makes it one of the albums highlights.
Although most of the essential Mudhoney ingredients do appear on The Lucky Ones
, there is one very important element of their music that there is unfortunately not enough of – energy. The energy of the bands early work was one of the main reasons why they gained their early underground success, and was what made their songs from this period so memorable. Their most famous song, Touch Me I’m Sick
for example, would not be half as good if it didn’t have energy provided by the fast main riff and Mark Arm’s passionate screams. Unfortunately, most of the songs on The Lucky Ones
do not have such energy, instead relying on rather dull, uninspired riffs to give the song appeal. Such songs are not all bad, with the likes of Inside Out Over You
and Next Time
proving very listenable on their own. The problem is that there are simply too many songs like this, which can cause the album to become boring. The only real moments where energy is injected are the chaotic Tales Of Terror
and excellent closer New Meaning
. Unfortunately, the first of these appears as the ninth track, by which time many listeners will long since have lost interest.
Overall, The Lucky Ones
is a solid, though very unspectacular effort. There aren’t many, if any numbers that will become Mudhoney classics, but neither are there any truly awful moments either, with the possible exception of We Are Rising
, where the albums lack of energy reaches a dull, sluggish peak. Although it is not a bad album, and will please some long-tern fans, it will unlikely gain the band any new fans, as the formula they have been using for the past twenty years is beginning to wear thin. You also get the feeling that, had this been released in the late eighties, Mudhoney would not have received as much attention and praise as they ultimately did. This is a telling truth, and shows that, despite still releasing decent material, Mudhoney are no longer relevant to the development of music, and, dare I say it are beginning to sound more like the mid-forties men they are.
The Lucky Ones