Mudhoney – Vanishing Point

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I know I’m late to the party on this one since the latest Mudhoney album Vanishing Point has already been out for two months.  But I guess I just wanted to rant about how good the new album is.  I listened to it on repeat on my two hour car ride back from Grand Rapids and I must say it’s their best album in fifteen years (not counting their absolutely fantastic best of/rarities double disc set March to Fuzz).  Now that is actually saying something.  I gotta confess that I’m a fan.  In Our Band Could Be Your Life writer Michael Azerrad claims that Mudhoney topped out early in their career with “Touch Me, I’m Sick” and henceforth just did the same thing over and over just not as good as the first time.

Well, he’s got that almost correct.  Add Mudhoney to the Motorhead/Ramones/AC/DC camp; bands who know one or two tricks but do them so well, they should never, ever think outside the box.  It’s a good box after all.  My friend told me that Vanishing Point sounds like it could  have been released 20 years ago.  Great!  I’m one of the few who thinks they never sucked during the 90s.  However after their breakup/reunion with Guy Maddison in place of original bassist Matt Lukin, I don’t know… I just didn’t like those albums as much.  Maybe I just felt that Since We’ve Become Translucent, Under a Billion Suns and The Lucky Ones were just generic garage rock albums.

But they’re back in fine form!  Little Marky Arm and Steve Turner blast out one great Stooges/Blue Cheer/MC5 riff after another across the album’s ten songs and 34 minute running time.  There is some great guitar interplay and Arm’s lyrics are as spot on and clever as ever.  Arm compares GG Allin to Long John Silver and drops references to Foreigner and Devo songs.  And when the lyrics aren’t clever, they are deliberately stupid and thus very funny.  Probably the best example I can give for this is “What to Do with the Neutral” which contains the lines “embrace the positive/reject the negative/what about the neutral which is neither here nor there/what to do with the neutral is not an easy problem/problem to solve/I will say no to nothing/and yes to something/but I have no idea what that something should be.”  What does that even mean?

But, like usual, Mudhoney tamper their signature style with slightly different approaches and fun little inside jokes for rock fans.  Oh!  And “Chardonnay” is a raging, uptempo punk song!  It sounds like the New Bomb Turks!  Aforementioned “What to Do with the Neutral” seems to be a vocal homage to Iggy – and I mean the solo, singing Iggy not the “I’m a streetwalkin’ cheetah” Iggy.  And I can’t say for sure but on the intro to “I Don’t Remember You”, it seems as though the group “borrowed” the “Under My Wheels” intro.

But it’s those inside references that make me want to shout it out loud and proclaim to the bros in the car next to mine when I tool around this boring Detroit suburb, “fuck you, assholes!  I listen to ROCK, baby!”  And that’s what this and all of Mudhoney’s albums are!  They’re rock!  Not  punk, grunge or “alternative” (a term which seems to all but died save for those who are completely out of touch)!  I don’t know how to say it without getting redundant!  No new ground is broken, just ten wonderful, catchy as all hell fuzzed out rock tunes!  They’re loud and Mark Arm belts out the lyrics with the same glee and whimsy as when he first shouted “I’m a jerk/I’m a creep!” 25 years ago.  Only now it’s “I’ve got big enough balls/ to admit I like it small”!

Oh okay, I will also mention “Sing This Song of Joy”, a mellower, more somber tune which evokes a similar mood as earlier songs like “Endless Yesterday” from aforementioned Under a Billion Suns, “Thirteenth Floor Opening” from Piece of Cake and “Broken Hands” from Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge.  So there you go; different tones.  However the majority of the album is a rollicking, gnarly good time!  And really isn’t that what we all live for?

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