April 27, 2006


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Mudhoney, Under a Billion Suns
Sub Pop, 2006

I always hated the word “grunge.” However, the word has become so imbedded in my musical vocabulary, I don’t know how else to describe a band like Mudhoney. It’s interesting how history labeled groups like Soundgarden, Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains as the progenitors of Seattle-style “grunge” alt-rock, when Mudhoney, along with groups like Tad and the Melvins, had been masterminding the bottom-heavy, Big Muff acid-fuzz sound long before the members of Pearl Jam could count to three, let alone ten.

Mudhoney’s ninth and latest album Under a Billion Suns sounds sweeeeet, as Eric Cartman might say, and is jam packed with some of the tightest, most solidly catchy tunes the band has ever crafted. “Where is the Future?” kicks things off with the group’s patented fuzzed-out guitars, throbbing bass and jackhammer drums, as well as some bluesy bent notes here and there. Singer/guitarist Mark Arm laments how his childhood vision of the future as presented to him by science-fiction movies and novels has failed to materialize.

Meanwhile, “It Is Us” (as in, of course, “The Enemy”) features a pulverizing stomp with a silly but infectious refrain of “Happy days are here again,” which only Arm could pull off. “Hard-On for War,” depicts “W” as a sleazy sexual predator who sends the country’s young men off to Iraq leaving America’s women for his perverted self, while the intermission-like instrumental, “A Brief Celebration of Indifference,” proves just that. Some critics don’t like Mudhoney’s new-found passion for left-leaning lyrics, but it’s hard to take their criticisms seriously when the magazines they write for are owned by AOL/Time Warner.

Suns is a solid effort. After close to 20 years, the band has done little to radically alter its signature sound, but I say change is overrated. Call it “grunge” if you must, but whatever genre you assign Mudhoney if you dug ‘em in 1988, you’ll like still dig ‘em in 2006. B
— Adam Marletta

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