When people think of Mudhoney they’re often actually thinking of Nirvana.
What I mean by that is, to the casual non grunge obsessive Mudhoney are a band that exist in the list of three or four other bands used as a short hand for “Seattle Scene Hits Big after Teen Spirit!” (Usually any other 3 or 4 grunge bands will do)
Of course I’m not referring to you Dear Reader. You’re a rock and roll archeologist. That’s why you read SteveForTheDeaf. You understand this stuff is the magic in the world. Rock Archeology is how we jump from Haight Asbury in the 60’s to Bristol in the noughties then to Berlin in the 70’s in a matter of minutes. All because a tone, a rhythm, a melody or even a cover bridged Forever Changes to Heligoland to Low.
So Mudhoney. They’re more than the Touch Me I’m Sick band. They’re more than the Nirvana also-rans who didn’t have a hit video. They’re not just contemporaries of Pixies, Pearl Jam and Pavement. They’ve got their own sound. Their own mythos and their own deep back catalogue.
They’ve featured on SFTD before so, y’know, they’re practically Hall Of Famers round here. Their self titled album found it’s way into my sweaty little teenage hands at a bric-a-brac sale in my college town when I was but 17 Years old. I bought it because of Nirvana. I bought it because I flipped the sleeve, looked at the song titles and wanted an album that (almost) opened with a song called Flat Out Fucked then ended with a track called Dead Love. To be honest, I bought it because they ‘were’ the Touch Me I’m Sick band. No denying that was a “Frikkin’ Banger” at pound a pint night at The Pink Toothbrush.
I owned it for 2-3 years before I really listened to it. Remember Nerys? From yesterdays Fugazi post? She was in my room of that block of flats in the first term of University when she spied the Mudhoney sitting alongside The Levellers and Carter USM. Nerys took the Pearl Jam album off the turn table even while Dan, Hardeep and I were heavily into ‘Doodle Oh Doo Doodle Ohhs’. She put on When Tomorrow Hits. I styled it out.
“Yes! Mudhoney!” – I’d spied the sleeve. I didn’t recognise the sounds.
She nodded along to the slow hypnotic groove building behind the squeees and brrrs of Mudhoney in ‘head’ mode. My ‘stock’ had just risen in the Cemetery Road Alternative Rock Scene.
You ever get that thing when you know a record but someone re-framing it for you means you really ‘hear’ it for the first time? You get it in films and TV too. When a song you know is used for a gunfight or a hero shot and suddenly you’re all emotionally attached to Like A Rolling Stone or Break On Through in a way you never were before.
That’s what Nerys did in my room with an album I’d struggled to connect with two years after I bought it. She went for her favourite track (track 11 of 12) when I’d been lost by track 5 up to now. By coming at the selftitled debut Mudhoney album Through The Outdoor I suddenly realised I ‘got’ them way more than the wailing and flailing (which I’m all for by the way) had lead me to believe. This wasn’t just the band that formed after Green River who weren’t Pearl Jam or Nirvana. They had their own trip.
That day, Tomorrow Hit Today. The well trodden concept of the album you have to learn to love is a holy grail moment for any Rock Archaeologist. It separates you from the filthy casuals. It also reminds me of a story I once was told about Julian Cope (of The Teardrop Explodes and… Well, Julian Cope)
Julian knew the rock world considered Captain Beefheart as a genius. He knew the Rock And Roll Indiana Joneses lauded Trout Mask Replica as his Masterpiece. So he bought a copy. Try as he might he would put the record on and find it impenetrably hard to listen to. Julian was trying hard to be a good Alternative rock and roller but he just couldn’t ‘get’ Beefheart. It’s an important record. It does things to the air. It affects the places it’s played. A flat that plays Beefheart, is a flat that have vibes Maaaaaan. So he found a solution all his own. Julian would put on Trout Mask Replica after he put on his coat. As the album started he head off to the pub. Closing the door and heading out past the gate to The Queens Head before Frownland had given way to The Dust Flows Forward.
Novel, but not ideal. That wasn’t what happened with the Cemetery Road Art Set. We heard When Tomorrow Hits and let it play into Dead Love. Then Hardeep flipped that sucker and we went in through the front door of This Gift. We played the whole album. Then we dug out Dan’s tape of Superfuzz BigMuff. Then we went record shopping. Then we bought festival tickets and T-Shirts and swarmed dancefloors and bugged DJ’s in Rock clubs for Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge hits and we shared a common love of Mudhoney for 2-3 years. I haven’t seen one of those guys since the mid-90’s but When Tomorrow Hits gets played a lot by me still and when it does I’m in that room with a bunch of excited teenagers really ‘hearing’ something for the first time.