Mudhoney Delivered An Epic Clapback And People Are Screaming! Mark Arm Is The Woke Bae We Need Right Now! Donald Drumpf, Sir, You Have Been Officially Cancelled By This Seattle Rock Band’s Tenth Studio Album!
Okay, I’m being facetious there, but I am being sincere when I tell you that, 30 years since their debut single, Mudhoney have released an astute, politically relevant and commendably fired-up garage punk belter of an LP. Aye, it blindsided me too.
Not to overegg the pudding here – it’s an angry social commentary album in the 80s punk tradition, you’re unlikely to learn anything from its lyrics and at no point does it transcend its creators’ identity as middle-aged white men (nor do Mudhoney purport to be anything else). Rather, Digital Garbage’s strengths are a sheaf of wicked smart one-liners and an equal proportion of killer riffs which lumber energetically, if that’s possible, and which have not been dulled or polished by age or circumstance.
‘Paranoid Core’, the second of 11 songs here, is a hoot: Arm, adding a splash of Jello Biafra to his delivery, assumes the character of… an Infowars-type tinfoil crank, maybe, or an older-school frother of the Rush Limbaugh ilk; someone making it their business to “stoke the fire in your paranoid core”. “Beware the city’s dazzling lights / Where dykes are waiting to steal your wives,” the vocalist scoffs over a great shitkicker punk backing that sounds like a relic of early 80s Australia. “Fight the Jews, homos, Muslims, Chinese / Playing militia in the trees!”
Then there’s ‘Kill Yourself Live’, whose lengthy intro of groovy slide guitar and Mysterians-type organ precedes a plausibly Black Mirror-influenced scenario of social media self-cancellation. “Use a filter with bunny ears, maybe add some dancing fruit… do it for the likes,” eyerolls Arm, 56, and yes, it is certainly true that his generation has an ignoble tendency to berate millennials for their extreme onlineness; on the other hand, this song is a reaction to actual documented events, so generational self-satisfaction isn’t called for here either.
Mudhoney’s humour is darker than ever in 2018, as well it might be. ‘Please Mr Gunman’ sings from the perspective of a group of future victims addressing their mass shooter-to-be: if they have to be slaughtered, they wish it to happen in church where the holy setting will curry God’s favour, rather than at the mall (engulfed by materialism) or in school (where they teach evolution). There’s more anti-Christian pelters – ‘21st Century Pharisees’, whose lyrics ironically feel rather late 20th century – and, sporting an almost Fu Manchu-like stoner riff, ‘Hey Neanderfuck’, which I presume is about the bloc of nihilistic Trump voters who now find themselves alarmed by the fruits of their labour. (“Thanks for inflicting your misery / On the rest of us.”)
By the album’s twilight, and ‘Next Mass Extinction’, they’ve weighed up the last half-hour of topical content, concluded humanity’s a bust, and shruggingly soundtracked it with some lowdown harmonica honk which explodes into a textbook Mudhoney salvo of yowling proto-metal. “Nothing will replace us...” repeats Arm, referring to homo sapiens but simultaneously revelling, you might think, in his band’s own armour-plated dinosaur status. Feels like it’ll take an asteroid to kill ’em off at this point, and respect’s due for that.
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Mon Oct 01 02:07:05 CEST 201880
The twenty-first century is filled with noise. Notifications, video conferences and the President of the United States of America. There’s no room to think. At all. You sit down for tea and uh oh, there’s the 24-hour news blasting out of your telly. You go out for tea and... surprise surprise, the restaurant is pumping out one of those sickly Gary Barlow ballads. There’s no escape. The noise is everywhere.
Over the years many have tried, and ultimately failed, to tackle this overwhelming aural oppression with ambience. The idea being that slow, soothing, electronic drones can create a calm, escape from the modern world. While ambient electronica certainly has its place, it just doesn’t provide the weaponry needed to fight such a dirty battle. This war needs something louder. This war needs something more pissed off. This war needs Mudhoney.
On Digital Garbage, the group’s tenth studio album, Mark Arm and co. have step up to the plate, fighting noise with noise, and you know what, it might just work. Opener ‘Nerve Attack’ is as raw as the group have sounded in years. It’s all about the drooping yelps and Steve Turner’s slushing guitar melodies. It’s a lovely racket, and no one makes a lovely racquet quite like Mudhoney.
Despite this newfound life, on the whole Digital Garbage doesn’t deviate from the classic Mudhoney sound. The one, two punch of ‘Paranoid Core’ and ‘Please Mr. Gunman’ could’ve fallen right off the back of a lost Stooges record. The sort of Stooges record Iggy might have made if he’d sacked off James Williamson after Raw Power and brought in Johnny Ramone, just for a laugh.
In fact, with each and every passing album the group seem to be slowly morphing into the best Iggy Pop cover band in the world. That’s not a dig. Quite the opposite. It’s arguably the highest praise a band can receive. Even the worst Iggy covers band is 80 percent better than every other band. It’s a scientific fact. Look it up.
That’s not to say that the album is merely by numbers. ‘Night and Fog’ deviates just enough from the group’s usual formula to give the listener something to think about. The song is a filthy sounding dirge that builds towards perhaps the bands heaviest moment to date. It’s all chugs and symbols and swirls. It’s stomping music. Stomping music for people who like to stomp.
The group’s raw aggression carries on right until finale ‘Oh Yeah’. The track dreams of being anywhere but the present day, something that really encapsulates the record as a whole. Its short length and retro sound make it feel, rather bizarrely, like an encore, a nice little crowd-pleasing blast from the past to send everyone home happy. It’s slightly odd, but it works.
With Digital Garage, Mudhoney have provided the noise-escape of the year. The war may never be won, but at least now we’ve got somewhere to hide when it all gets a bit much.
Fri Sep 28 17:35:33 CEST 201871
The Seattle scuzz-punk pioneers deliver a grave diagnosis of a festering societal condition.
Mon Oct 01 07:00:00 CEST 2018