Mudhoney, Electric Ballroom, London

Sweetness and light
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The Independent Culture

Eventually, absolutely everything that was once fashionable becomes fashionable again – at least, to someone. Mudhoney, from Seattle, the originators of what later became labelled "grunge" and, in their late-Eighties pomp, the first band in years to break out from the Pacific Northwest, have actually regained their exoticism. In the current rock'n'roll revival (not that it ever really went away, of course), their basic, though never unconsidered, style is now downright contemporary. Their latest record, the excellent, and excellently packaged, Since We've Become Translucent, has received their best notices in years, while their influence is palpable on grubby hopefuls such as the Datsuns, the D4 and the Beatings, classic two-guitar,-bass-and-drums quartets all.

Eventually, absolutely everything that was once fashionable becomes fashionable again – at least, to someone. Mudhoney, from Seattle, the originators of what later became labelled "grunge" and, in their late-Eighties pomp, the first band in years to break out from the Pacific Northwest, have actually regained their exoticism. In the current rock'n'roll revival (not that it ever really went away, of course), their basic, though never unconsidered, style is now downright contemporary. Their latest record, the excellent, and excellently packaged, Since We've Become Translucent, has received their best notices in years, while their influence is palpable on grubby hopefuls such as the Datsuns, the D4 and the Beatings, classic two-guitar,-bass-and-drums quartets all.

It's quite deserved, too. Sometimes, when bands reach the veteran stage, before they go over the hill into self-parody, they hit a new level, with a huge back-catalogue to choose from, an effortless command of their strengths and a thankfully deflated sense of self-importance.

So it proves tonight in a house sold out weeks in advance. After the cunning deception of the truly sludgy opener, "Baby, Can You Dig the Light?", just the sort of thing hippie audiences once sat down for (though not on beer-soaked floors like this evening's), has finally ground to a halt, Mark Arm (né McLaughlin) moves from organ to guitar and centre stage, and the show truly starts. Material from the new record – such as the heroically ridiculous "Take It Like a Man" (sadly denuded of the horn parts that give it a truly timeless feel), the sloganeering of "Where the Flavor Is" and the ironic, if appropriate, "Our Time Is Now" – and genuine classics such as "Touch Me I'm Sick", which to this day fills grotty dancefloors, and the abrasive "You Got It" are all treated with equal irreverence and riotous glee. Inane truism it may be, but, damn it, they rocked.

Arm never could sing, as such, but few have ever rasped so convincingly, while his long-time cohort Steve Turner (20 years in bands together and counting) takes the ugly lead parts with a reassuring, once-unimaginable professionalism. The drummer, Dan Peters, and new bassist, Guy Maddison, keep the bottom end as tight as Arm and Peters are loose.

Incredibly, they've outlasted their peers such as Soundgarden and Nirvana, and though Mudhoney never were quite as blue-collar as they were once painted, 15 years of near-success have left them that way. (Their current day jobs include nursing and gardening.) Concluding with a ragged, unexpected cover of Hawkwind's "Urban Guerrilla", they remain adored. "In and Out of Grace" may be the title of one of their most-loved shout-alongs, but right now, perhaps to their amazement, they are quite definitely in.

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