Mudhoney Vanishing Point(Sub Pop) Buy it from Insound
The story goes that in the early days of Sub Pop, they would decide whether or not to sign an act by watching them perform live. If the bands put on an impressive show, then Sub Pop would sign them up. Signing loads of exciting bands means your label starts producing loads of exciting music, and few can match Mudhoney. Take that “WOOOOOOOW!” from the start of Touch Me I’m Sick; how cool is that when it’s bursting out of your speakers at far too loud a volume? When you see a new Mudhoney release, you expect guitars covered in sludge that thrill you while an avalanche of drums crash around in the background. I think we all know that that particular dynamic was never going to change.
Despite 2013 being Mudhoney’s 25th birthday and lead singer Mark Arm being the wrong side of 50, there’s an admirable lack of change. Many musicians chop and change when it comes to style. Not Mudhoney. The sound remains the same, Stooges-like with sneering lyrics to boot. I say lyrics… It’s more like words/noises that fit the rhythm. Singing along to Slipping Away involves the word “baby” a bazillion times, a tonne of jerky shouts and the line “I feel you slipping away.” It’s not a problem, though, on Slipping Away, a song that shows that they’ve not lost that exciting edge after all these years. Words seem to matter less when there’s a drumroll or Steve Turner’s guitar is wailing. But when there isn’t a drumroll or Steve Turner’s guitar is having a rest, the easily ignored lyrics provide a problem. The slower tracks (What to do with the Neutral, Song of Joy) are a bit too easy to tune out of. On the topic of bad lyrics, there are two moments during Vanishing Point that are impossible to forgive. One’s on I Don’t Remember You, a sneering, catchy little tune that is easy to despise after you hear the entirely out of place line “’scuse me while I fill this shopping cart.” Equally cringe worthy is the last twenty seconds of Song of Joy, when Mark Arm feels the need to wheeze “dancing on your grave.” Every time it plays, it makes me want to laugh; it’s the moment in the film when you spot an error that takes you out of the action and everything that follows is soured slightly. Don’t think for a minute, though, that all of the lyrics are to be instantly dismissed: I Like It Small is a tribute to small labels that has its moments, as does Douchebags On Parade, a diatribe against pop-stars; don’t be put off by those two god-awful track names.
But let’s be honest, us fanboys and fangirls who are still following Mudhoney have no interest about what Mark Arm has to say. It’s all about that glorious noise. Vanishing Point is pitched closer to 2008’s The Lucky Ones than to their earlier albums with its relatively polished sounding guitars (relatively being the opportune word) and generally slower paced tracks though there seems to be greater focus on chords leading into guitar solos. Vanishing Point’s biggest downside is the lack of standalone incredible tracks, the only ones really being opener Slipping Away and The Only Son of the Widow from Nain, (I know, another shit title) which kicks off with an aggressive riff and continues with a sing-along chorus. While the other tracks are decent, they can only ever be good album tracks. There’s just not enough that grabs you by the throat and pulls you back to listen over and over again. This couples with the tune-out moments caused by any slow-down in the tempo. Aside from the catchy choruses, there’s little for anyone who isn’t a diehard Mudhoney fan.
Though, part of me is inclined to not care about that at all. As a cult band that has been going for years, who are Mudhoney making records for? Themselves and for the fans. If you don’t like them, it’s not for you.17 April, 2013 - 04:52 — James McKenna