I owe a lot to Mudhoney. Listening to their self-titled 2nd album many years ago, took me away from a West Midlands world of Megacity 4/Neds Atomic Dustbin and onto a beer-fuelled journey into independent American music - a journey that has shown no sign of slowing down over the subsequent 16 years. The superfuzzed bigmuffed mayhem of tunes like 'This Gift', 'You Got It' and 'Flat Out Fucked' opened my eyes to a "Screw you we are going to get loaded" attitude that played soundtrack to much of my teen years.
But, as often happens with many of your oldest friends, you inevitably lose contact after a while. So, on the first listen to Under a Billion Suns, the first new Mudhoney material I've heard in a while, it's something of a surprise to hear a joyous brass section, working its way from the background to the fore in the opening songs 'Where Is The future?' and 'It Is Us' as well as closing the album on 'Blindspots'. Very Californian for these archetypes of the Seattle sound. It's like that old friend has turned up on your doorstep after all these years and, well, he's wearing a dress! At first, you'd perhaps be like 'Err, ok!' But once the shock subsides and you get a chance to sneak a look up that dress - bingo! There's a Big Muff, as in your face as ever. Open up that handbag and - yep! - there's some beers, so fuck it, let's party like the old days.
All those things that made you want to hang out with Mudhoney in the first place, are here. The sleazy, sludgy guitars, underrated solo work, Mark Arm's sneering vocals, Dan Peters driving drums and all the snotty attitude that made them the scourge of parents - before they presumably became parents themselves.
Whilst the sound remains the same, the band (Arm?) themselves seem to have become polticised. It's a pretty damning indictment of George Dubya, when perennial slackers and party animals Mudhoney feel the need to weigh into the debate about how much of a Chief he really is. In 'Where Is The Future?' Arm wonders what happened to the promised future of his late 60's childhood "I want a world run by giant brains, instead of small minded arrogant fools" the theme continues on the faster 'It is Us' "I've seen the enemy and It Is Us!" Muff vs. Bush! Even the war gets a look in, but with a particular Mudhoney spin on things "Hard-on for War" is pro-war in the sense that; with young men serving abroad, it's left to the dirty old men to have the pick of the young girls left behind. Whilst it's nice to hear their take on current affairs, the highlight has to be the instrumental 'A Brief Celebration Of Indifference" - a 2 minute supercharged throwback to 1990.
All in all it's a welcome return to the speakers for these Seattle legends. Whilst they may have lyrically grown up (just a bit though) the sound and energy that blew me away all those years back, is still very much in place.