by Chris Familton
Twenty five years after Mudhoney rose from the ashes of the Seattle band Green River they are one of the few acts of that era still going strong, relatively free of the drama that surrounded many of their contemporaries who lost band members, split up or morphed into superstars. They just keep hanging around doing pretty much exactly the same thing they’ve been doing since they announced their arrival with the now seminal punk statement Touch Me I’m Sick. Vanishing Point continues their knack for solid, dependable albums full of twisted sarcasm and raw, visceral garage rock without sounding one iota like they’re living in the past.
You’d be forgiven for thinking you’d put the wrong CD in the player with the opening 30 seconds of Slipping Away sounding like a (very good) funk rock excursion yet, as Steve Turner’s thin, caustic guitar joins the rhythm section everything falls into place and the magic of Mudhoney takes over. That feeling of cohesion is testament to how tight and economical the band are. The funk element morphs seamlessly into a riff ripped from Girl Name Sandoz while Turner wails Hendrix-like over the top. This is psychedelic rock in its truest form with tripped out and intoxicated musical forms tangling and dancing with each other.
Mudhoney contrast their freer sounds with straight up gonzo punk anthems like the first single I Like It Small, a tough, chanting Iggy Pop-aping song that sounds like Mudhoney covering Mudhoney. Mark Arm has always had his lyrical tongue in his cheek but the band also throw in musical one-liners like the the acoustic guitar that is left hanging in the air as the song fades out. They balance their humour exceptionally well, using it subtly and sparingly and it never threatens to overshadow the serious nature of the quartet as musicians.
What sets this album apart from many of their other releases is the proficiency of the band’s playing. Each song delivers superb musicianship from all four of them. Dan Peters’ drums have a perfect mix of swing and brutal propulsion that allows Guy Maddison a ton of space to really stretch out on bass and nail the bottom end in a similar way to Mike Watt. Turner also gets to use the full range of his playing, from Hendrix to Stooges/MC5 riffing and punk rock testosterone chords, he mixes and matches it all to thrillingly fun effect, like a barrel of electric monkeys.
Arm is in fine form on Vanishing Point with his lyrical accusations and rants against everything from pretentious people (Chardonnay) to those still trying to ride on the band and the scene’s coattails (I Don’t Remember You). On the album closer Douchebags on Parade he rails against self-important celebrities over his own searing slide guitar and Maddison’s pummeling bass runs. Arm also demonstrates he is more than a cartoon punk screamer with a great melodic chorus on Sing This Song of Joy, one of the many examples of singing amid the wailing and gnashing of teeth.
With Mudhoney you generally get what you expect and for the most part that is true on Vanishing Point. What makes it a great record is that this is a band that sounds like they still have a belly full of fire, are still pissed off with a bunch of things and remain completely in love with the creative possibilities and the artistic value of rock n roll.
this review was first published on undertheradar.co.nz