Album: Vanishing Point
Label: Sub Pop / Cargo Records
Every now and then, a combination will go beyond “appropriate” or “good” and result in something that forever alters the universe. Just imagine a world without chocolate and peanut butter, Doc Martens and a leather jacket, Beavis and Butthead, and of course, Mudhoney and Sub Pop. April 2013 marks the 25th anniversary of both Mudhoney and Sub Pop Records, and there could be no better band to represent the label, past, present and future. Nirvana, Saint Etienne and Fleet Foxes are swell, but no other group has consistently kicked as much ass as Mudhoney, nor has anyone come close. Through two and a half decades, sarcastic grins remain implanted on their grizzled faces, even as empty bottles and the sneakers of a stage-diver fly inches from their heads.
Along with this milestone celebration, Mudhoney have bestowed Vanishing Point upon us. It’s not their first album. Or third. Or seventh. Vanishing Point is Mudhoney’s ninth studio album, a truly remarkable feat for any band, but almost statistically-impossible in their case, as we are talking about a band whose 1988 debut “Touch Me I’m Sick” b/w “Sweet Young Thing Ain’t Sweet No More” was such a volatile and desperate single that it’s miraculous the band made it through a weekend, let alone another year. In an age where only the newest of the new can survive (and even then, only for a few weeks at best), what could the decades-old Mudhoney have to offer? What could they possibly have left to say?
The answer is plenty. Whereas most groups originally (wrongly or otherwise) associated with the grunge movement have broken up, fallen apart, reunited as shells of their former selves or disappeared entirely (I’m looking at you, Sugartooth), Mudhoney kept on kicking out the garage-rocking, punk-infused, psycho-blues jams, ignoring the trends of the day in favor of scorching feedback, rumbling bass and the inimitable voice of Mark Arm. Vanishing Point is full of that fervor, but the band isn’t masquerading as teenaged, beer-soaked goofballs wandering high school hallways–these are songs written from the rare vantage point of a band who went through the rock n’ roll meat-grinder and not only lived to tell such a tale, they came out full of the wisdom and dark humor such a journey provides. Just take a listen to “I Don’t Remember You,” a raucous stomper that flicks off the wannabes and hangers-on that still come around while Mudhoney attempt to buy some eggs at the store. Or take “I Like It Small,” a rallying cry for the little things in life, literally–Mark Arm proudly holds GG Allin above Long Dong Silver and dingy basements over esteemed music halls, not because he should, but because it’s what Mudhoney has always favored: the dirty, the dejected, the fearless and free. They’re sophisticated enough to rally against the UGG boots of wines, chardonnay, but they do so in the form of a punk-rock riot song that breaks the bottle over your head before pouring it down the drain. Of course, it’s not long before Mudhoney receive their comeuppance, devoured at the hands of the decadently rich cannibals that control our world in “The Final Course.” Vanishing Point is filled with enough dread, psychoanalysis and Nuggets-on-fire riffs to torch your cul-de-sac.
Real uninhibited rock music is harder and harder to locate these days, but Mudhoney make it easy for you, not just by being the flagship band of the greatest record label in the history of recorded time, but by writing songs that stick in your head long after your body has been buried. Vanishing Point isn’t just another entry in their impressive catalog, but a modern-day rock ‘n’ roll lashing that we all deserve. As usual, Mark Arm says it best, as in “Sing This Song of Joy”: I sing this song of joy / for all the girls and boys / dancing on your grave…
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