Mudhoney, Record Hop, Melba Toast Granada Theater September 5, 2008
Better than: Putting on a flannel shirt and watching a collection of Nirvana and Pearl Jam videos.
Even though each member is now in his 40s, the guys in Mudhoney rocked like seething, youthful beasts last night at the Granada Theater.
Dressed more like four guys going out for a round of golf, Mark Arm and crew put on a powerful 90-minute display of punky garage rock that never wavered in its intensity or chaotic amateurism. The set list alternated between cuts from the band’s latest release, The Lucky Ones, and the recent double disc reissue of Super Fuzz Big Muff, Mudhoney’s legendary 1988 debut, and fans erupted in inebriated shouts of joy when the band performed grungy chestnuts such as “Touch Me, I’m Sick” and “Suck You Dry.” But it was the more recent material, such as the (dare I say it) sentimental “The Lucky Ones” where Mudhoney connected beyond the standard Iggy and the Stooges three-chorded roar.
Although loud and abrasive, the song itself has to be considered an elegy to both Kurt Cobain and the grunge movement itself. “The lucky ones are already dead,” shouted frontman Mark Arm as guitarist Steve Turner locked in on a riff that nearly conveyed as much meaning as Arm’s tortured wail. Such was a bit of a respite as most of the evening was more about unabashed nihilism, with Mudhoney delivering song after song of unrepentant animosity to a predominately male audience.
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“Oh god, how I love to hate,” screamed Arm during “In and Out of Grace,” the band’s signature statement. Yet despite all the pent up angst, Mudhoney cathartic noise was definitely more hopeful than many folks would believe. Mark Arm’s wry lyrics use the stereotype of the sadistic, sexist loner as the jumping off point to a whole range of issues such as war, suicide, self-doubt and personal perseverance.
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By the time the band finished the encore with Black Flag’s “Fix Me,” it was obvious that the band’s stature as the preeminent grunge band would remain intact.
Critic’s Notebook Personal Bias: I’ve known Mark Arm for over 20 years, even before he formed Mudhoney. We first met while he was in Green River--actually a better band than Mudhoney. As Arm screeched and wailed, I couldn’t help but wish he was still fronting Green River, still bellowing out lines such as “good things come to those who wait, so I want to come.”
Random Note: Once again, just like during The New Frontiers show a month of so back, between bands, the Granada chose to play a DVD of a live performance by The Black Keys. I know the band is playing the venue in the coming months, but so are The Mountain Goats and Roky Erickson. Is that Black Keys DVD the only one at hand? Are ticket sales slow for that particular show?
By the way: Good opening sets from both Melba Toast and Record Hop, except that Record Hop played for almost as long as the headliner. Several fans came and went after Record Hop’s fiery performance, but me and my gaggle of slightly rotund Garland educators began to murmur, “you’re the support band” as song after song delayed Mudhoney hitting the stage. --Darryl Smyers