Review Summary: Now 25 years old, Mudhoney's 9th LP proves they have certainly aged gracefully.
If nothing else, Mudhoney will always have a place in the footnotes of music history for one thing: grunge. Legend has it the lead vocalist Mark Arm coined the term when describing Mudhoney’s debut EP Superfuzz Bigmuff in 1988. Thankfully, there’s more to them than that. They were Sub Pop’s flagship band when the Seattle label was in it’s infancy, and their brief flirtation with a major (Reprise) ended more than ten years ago – they’re safely back at home. With Sub Pop celebrating their 25th anniversary this April, Mudhoney are celebrating that anniversary and their own (another silver one) with their first new record in five years.
Vanishing Point is somewhere between a standard rock album and a grungey-punk throwback. It’s definitely closer to the former. While you might expect Mudhoney to keep flogging the dead horse of grunge, they haven’t simply recreated one of their old records. It’s a little punkier, and certainly cleaner on it’s opening tracks. ‘Slipping Away’ and ‘I Like It Small’ are standard rock fare, but not without Arm’s trademark shouted, I-don’t-care-if-it’s-in-tune vocals. ‘What To Do With The Neutral’ has a slow-tempo strutting descending bass line, and some fuzzy, twangy guitar. It’s juxtaposed by ‘Chardonnay’, a sub-two-minute punk romp that’s a bona-fide Mudhoney cut. It nicely blends angsty punk nostalgia with an updated sound - Vanishing Point isn’t lo-fi, highlighting the way the band has matured over 25 years. Indeed, their lyrical concerns concern wine rather than beer and such on ‘The Final Course’; the Hendrix update “‘scuse me / while I fill this shopping cart” on ‘I Don’t Remember You’ typifing the band’s new concern with middle age. Mudhoney have grown up with their audience rather than desperately trying to be relevant to a generation they aren’t part of, and it’s to a gratifying effect on Vanishing Point. The songs are all a little longer, everything feels a little more considered, but without trading the energy and sensibilities of the ‘trademark’ Mudhoney sound.
Vanishing Point is successful in how it recalls vintage Mudhoney without simply being a carbon copy of it. When you write rock songs as well as Mudhoney, you can’t really blame them for sticking to a formula that, after 25 years, still ain’t broke. If the group haven’t done anything for you in the last 25 years, Vanishing Point will do little to change that. For even the most casual of fans, Vanishing Point is one of the group’s strongest efforts in their recent canon – it’s a lovable and rewarding listen.