Review by Ollie Stygall.
What’s this? Mudhoney on a punk website? Fuck yeah it is!!!! Mudhoney were certainly seen as one of the pioneers of the grunge movement but at their heart they are a punk rock band. They always eschewed the more metallic leanings of bands such as Alice In Chains and Soundgarden and the stadium rock of Pearl Jam and ploughed a furrow that was as informed by old school punk rock as it was psychedelic garage rock. A quick look at some of the bands they’ve covered in their career gives a real clue as to there the band is truly coming from, The Dicks, Angry Samoans, The Damned, The Adolescents, Fang, Black Flag, Void and The Crucifucks to name but a few. Make no mistake my friends, Mudhoney are a punk rock band.
The band’s punk credentials are fully apparent on this new album, their 10th studio offering in 30 years. Recent albums have seen some of the rougher edges shaved off of the band’s sound but Digital Garbage throws the band right back to the raw days of Superfuzz Bigmuff with a sense of vitriol and big, fuzzy guitars that made the band’s name in the first place.
Mark Arm seems to be a man at war with the modern world on this album. His lyrics haven’t been this direct and viciously barbed in a while. Paranoid Core pokes fun at the inherent paranoia and xenophobia that Trump’s administration is continuously perpetrating. Please Mr. Gunman sounds like an attack on gun crime with its chorus of I’d Rather Die In Church and Kill Yourself Live is a disturbing diatribe against the way social media has given people a disproportionate sense of value to the point that people will live stream their suicides in the hope of leaving a lasting legacy and gaining a few likes. The very title Digital Garbage sums up Arm’s view of a world deteriorating at the mercy of the internet. The fact that the album is available to stream online and I’m listening to it on Deezer isn’t lost on me at all.
Musically this is every bit as dark as the lyrics. In the last 15 years, although retaining their fuzzy tones, Mudhoney have flirted with cleaner tones and horn sections, etc. Aside from some fairly sinister sounding, old school organ tones, Digital Garbage goes back to basics and delivers an album of fuzz… with teeth!!! Paranoid Core is a punk rock song through and through as it rages along on a simplistic riff. Night And Fog is darker, slower and more ominous whilst 21st Century Pharisees is a stop-start garage rock classic in the making. Arm’s vocal delivery is as vicious as his lyrics as, in many cases he forgoes melody in favour of straight up ranting. As he kicks off Prosperity Gospel with a vitriolic, “Fuck the planet,” you’re left in no doubt as his disenchanted state of mind… his ad-libbed “fuck off” that leads into the mid-section comes from 50+ years of seeing the world, and America in particular going down the toilet and his refusal to be part of it anymore.
Digital Garbage may well be my album of the year… if it isn’t then it’s certainly right up there. As a Mudhoney fan of nearly 30 years it truly makes my heart flutter to hear the band sounding so vital, antagonistic and relevant where so many of their “grunge” stablemates are either dead of settling into a comfortable middle-aged career of taking the money for minimal effort. Mudhoney are real. Mudhoney are punk. Mudhoney have fucking nailed it!
Digital Garbage is out now on Sub Pop Records. You can pick it up from the band’s Bandcamp, or listen on Spotify.
Review by Ollie Stygall.
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