Mudhoney – Digital Garbage

I first fell in love with Mudhoney in the summer of 2013. You could say I was about 25 years late to the party. I’d owned their records and liked them. But it wasn’t until I was at my first Mudhoney show at the Sub Pop Festival in Seattle that everything clicked for me. The perfect unholy alliance of garage rock, punk, and grunge. Fortunately, Mudhoney play a ton of local shows and I’ve had the opportunity to meet members of the band, catch their live show over a dozen times, and even appear in one of their music videos. Digital Garbage is the band’s first album in 5 years and reflects the uncertain times in which it was recorded.

When we last heard from Mudhoney they were touting the virtues of simplicity (I Like It Small), complaining about wine (I Hate Chardonnay), and singing songs of joy (uh, Sing This Song of Joy). The Mudhoney of 2018 is a different band from the Mudhoney of 2013. In the last 5 years they’ve watched evangelical hypocrites rise to the fore, the prosperity gospel embraced, and countless mass shootings in the United States. It makes for an inspired, angry return of the legendary Seattle band. I was able to attend the Seattle show the weekend of the album release and was blown away by the more aggressive punk leaning set. The new songs fit well within the canon, and there was no perceptible drop in quality when a new song followed a classic . So let’s talk about the album.

It’s hard to pick out highlights on this album – every song brings something to the table that I really enjoy. It is easily one of their best albums, maybe even top 3. So I’ll just provide some thoughts on each song. Nerve Attack opens the album with a sense of dread. A mid tempo number, it calls to mind Iggy & the Stooges in their Raw Power phase. I really enjoyed the call and response of the title. Mark: “I think I’m under a nerve attack.” Guy: “Nerve Attack!” It was beautiful in the live setting. Paranoid Core plays into all the fears of the far right, set to a pop punk melody. It’s snotty, it’s catchy, it’s perfection. Please Mr. Gunman takes inspiration from ridiculous sentiments expressed by politicians and gun nuts in the wake of the mass shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC in 2015. The chorus is a punk anthem for 2018. “We’d rather die in CHURCH!” Kill Yourself Live mocks the social media culture of the present day. It’s another chorus that’ll make people very uncomfortable. The video features Jesus killing himself, people taking selfies, and judgement from the Apostles while they watch on their laptops. Musically, there is an organ intro that is inspired by Devo’s Gut Feeling before shifting into one of the catchiest things Mudhoney have released in a while. “Kill yourself live / Do it for the likes / You’ll live on in digital garbage…”. Night and Fog is my favorite song on the album. This is the band as Iggy & the Stooges incarnate. It again plays into the paranoia of 2018, set to a muddy mix of heavy bass, thudding drums, white noise guitar licks, and monotone vocals. It builds to an apex, a Black Sabbath styled crescendo of noise. 21st Century Pharisees is an angry punk number that calls out religious hypocrites. “Evangelical hypocrites / Lying hands on a pile of shit / He doesn’t give a fuck about your Jesus / And it’s clear that you don’t either”.  Hey Neanderfuck was previously released in 2017 on an obscure compilation. Fuzzy guitar tones, killer lyrics, the band is on fire here. What I love about this song is that it could have been recorded at anytime in the last 30 years by Mudhoney. It’s classic. Prosperity Gospel takes the Joel Osteen’s of the world to account. Curiously, there is no such thing as the prosperity gospel in the Bible – Jesus taught quite the opposite. The boys in Mudhoney know this too. “Fuck the planet / Screw your children / Get rich / You win!” and “Prosperity Gospel / Get rich / You win! / Fuck off!”. Another angry punk song that is a joy to listen to. Messiah’s Lament is…gasp. An almost ballad by Mudhoney. Filtered through their garage rock aesthetic of course. It is told from the view of Jesus as he watches what people are doing in his name in 2018. “Look at what they’re doing / In my name / In my name”. That guitar solo by Steve Turner might be the saddest, best solo he’s done. No joke. Next Mass Extinction is Mudhoney gone swamp rock by way of Australia. They all sing in unison, with harmonica heavy in the mix “Nothing will replace us / Nothing will replace us / In the next mass extinction”. Oh Yeah ends the album with a pop punk ode to surfing. I understand these sentiments very well, as I skimboard all around Puget Sound when I can. “I wanna get in the ocean and clear my mind”.

I can’t really say enough great things about this new Mudhoney album – out now.

Verdict: A masterful return

For Fans of: The Sonics, Nirvana, feedtime, Dead Moon, Devo

Tracks:

  1. Nerve Attack
  2. Paranoid Core
  3. Please Mr. Gunman
  4. Kill Yourself Live
  5. Night and Fog
  6. 21st Century Pharisees
  7. Hey Neanderfuck
  8. Prosperity Gospel
  9. Messiah’s Lament
  10. Next Mass Extinction
  11. Oh Yeah

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