It’s 25 years since Mark Arm and Steve Turner decided to call their new band Mudhoney. At almost the exact same time, fanzine writer Bruce Pavitt and his friend Jonathan Poneman gave up their day jobs to run their brand new label Sub Pop full-time.
Since then band and label have enjoyed a symbiotic relationship that’s spawned a movement, seen Mudhoney depart for a major label, and then return. Now nine studio albums in they are the great survivors of the 80s underground explosion, unbloodied and untainted by cynicism,
Forever associated with the band that came in their wake – that would be Nirvana – Mudhoney (whose Mark Arm coined the term “grunge”) have always offered a different prospect to Kurt and co’s attempt at a Beatles/Sabbath hybrid.
Theirs is a sound borne out of Nuggets-era garage psychedelia and The Stooges’ wildest scorched earth approach, and all with stoner rock foundations and an insolent skate-punk streak. It’s a recipe that they’ve never strayed too far from.
Certainly the flailing, wailing sounds they’ve been making since 1988’s Superfuzz Bigmuff debut EP remain firmly in place on an album that unapologetically adheres to an “if it ain’t broke…” maxim.
I Don’t Remember You and I Like It Small are pure, strutting Iggy petulance and Mudhoney’s world one perennially lit by lava lamps and fuelled by the dynamics of proto-punk garage rock. Chardonnay is a brilliantly acerbic, whiplash hardcore song aimed at an imaginary critic’s darling, with “the face that launched a thousand strippers”.
The Hendrix homage I Don’t Remember You and Douchebags on Parade remind that Mudhoney have always been fun. The very best of early grunge – Butthole Surfers, Melvins, Tad, Nirvana – possessed an outsider’s anti-stance of playful mischief-making and sardonic humour; a desire to see what they could get away with.
That Mudhoney still sound much like they always did is impressive. Such dynamic music usually needs youth on its side – but while Arm is over 50 and other members are closing in on it, Vanishing Point proves the quartet is still a thrilling proposition, in love with the simplicity of mayhem and volume.