It has always been the great irony that of all the Pacific Northwest bands, Mudhoney historically had received the least attention from radio, from record-buyers, from MTV. Of course, the band demanded it be that way, contemptuously keeping major labels away for so long and giving in to Warner Bros. in 1992 only when financial problems at Sub Pop forced them to seek outside employment. But while it is a noble thing to have principles--to not want to sell out or buy in--it is an awful feeling to be crushed under foot by mediocrity.
Mudhoney's is a pastiche of sound that owes its origins to rock's great and unappreciated progenitors of noise--the Sonics, the Stooges, Crazy Horse, Blue Cheer--the sum of which sum defines the "Seattle sound" and does it 100 times better. Their music is so unrelenting and angry and even funny and sometimes catchy it's almost a parody of bands like Pearl Jam and Soundgarden and Nirvana. Or, more accurately, a commentary on those bands--one of which (Pearl Jam) sprang from the ashes of Green River, the seminal Seattle band Mark Arm left because his bandmates wanted a major-label deal while he wanted only to make music.
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If the members of Mudhoney--still the best of the bands from Up There, and one of the best from anywhere--once wished their comrades well, as they always insisted, maybe in retrospect they now feel bitter and betrayed. On the band's new My Brother the Cow, they take shots if not at Eddie Vedder, then at least close enough to whiz by his ear: "I got a guitar/Check it out I'm a star," Arm sings. "Hey, kids, how would I look on the cover of Spin?...Listen to my songs/I guarantee you'll relate." The name of the song: "Generation Spokesmodel."
"Into Yer Shtik" is even more snide, its (probable) target an icon who blew out his brains a year ago. Arm seems to have contempt for Kurt Cobain--contempt for his success, contempt for the pain it brought him, contempt for the way in which he gave up when he was winning the game. "You're so tormented/ Demented/Indebted/To all the assholes just like you who've come and gone before you," Arm sneers, calling it all so "predictable and just plain dull." "Why don't you blow your brains out, too?/You're so into yer own shtik."
Mudhoney performs June 24 at Trees. Clawhammer opens.