For the mostly thirtysomething crowd, the name Mudhoney evokes feelings of nostalgia. But the band are hardly prone to romantic sentiment themselves, and their rock'n'roll has always been irreverently blunt.
The title of their first EP, Superfuzz Bigmuff, refers simply to the two guitar pedals that inaugurated their sound in 1988 (though it does leer on the brink of obscenity, like their lyrics). The subsequent album Superfuzz Bigmuff plus Early Singles, of 1990, is generally considered Mudhoney's best; hence its rendition tonight in ATP's Don't Look Back season. The album convinced many that Mudhoney were the first true Seattle grunge band. By the time of its release, they had already collaborated and toured with Sonic Youth and made a big impression on a young Kurt Cobain.
While never reaching the heights of Nirvana, Mudhoney have succeeded in turning their ribald and gleefully nihilistic blend of humour into an art form, and are probably surprised they have made it to eight albums. Although the singer, Mark Arm, insists tonight: "This is not a comedy act!", it's good to note that, before Mudhoney, Arm and the guitarist Steve Turner had a history of forming spoof bands, extending back to their legendarily inept early-Eighties punk outfit Mr Epp and the Calculations, who made flyers for imaginary gigs. But tonight Mudhoney will turn up and play the whole first album, in order.
If that sounds very un-rock'n'roll, it's reassuring that they don't actually play the songs in order. As Turner mentions, they participate in "revisionist history" by playing the album in the order that was originally intended. The singles are played chronologically, and side B of Superfuzz Bigmuff before side A. "Hate the Police" comes last, because "we hate them so much".
After the definitive first track, "Touch Me I'm Sick", the audience seems to overflow with joy. Arm smiles and says: "Thank you - we can all go home now." They then roll on to the delirious slide guitar and sneering howls of "Sweet Young Thing Ain't Sweet No More". The spectacle of crowd-surfing is as surprising as how great this hefty dirge still sounds.
This is ferocious rock'n'roll in its most devolved form, and its primal amusement cannot be denied. The playing of this album highlights the worth of going to a gig over just buying the album: the atmosphere at Koko is exuberant. If Mudhoney are any gauge, then we can only look forward.Reuse content