Mudhoney are the band that pretty much defined grunge - a
noisy, deliberately sloppy blend of hard rock attack and punk attitude,
topped off with menacing and frequently funny lyrics. That they've
made a 25 year plus career out of it is not a bad achievement considering
they were frequently described as the worst band in the world back
at the beginning. Despite having slowed down somewhat recently - the
last two albums have been seperated by four year gaps - the band is
still very much a going concern.
The previously described Mudhoney sound hasn't changed a great deal
from the early days, and that's one of my problems with this album.
The other one I may as well get out of the way up front - SAX. That's
right, in my opinion saxophones are all very well but belong on either
jazz records or the kind of easy listening pap you hear in the elevator.
I can't think of a single rock record that was improved by the addition
of this loathsome instrument - even The Stooges' primal, brilliant
"Fun House" would have been even better without the wind
if you ask me, and the same goes for many of the songs here.
Phew, glad I got that off me chest - no more sax discriminiation
from here on in. Under a Billion Suns is actually a bit of
a progression from previous 'honey albums in that the songs' subject
matter is frequently angry and political - among the heads down, no
nonsense mindless boogie that I've come to expect, I found myself
thinking about the words more than once.
A few highlights: "Where is the Future" blasts off the
record, with Mark Arm railing against the bleak outlook for
today's youth. "It is Us" recalls the aforementioned Stooges
with a dirty riff, a frantically soloing lead behind it and primitive
vocals. "Hard-On for War" is a hard riffing protest song,
with music a bit like Smashing Pumpkins or mid-period Sonic
Youth, bemoaning the fact that all the boys are fighting while
the girls are left at home in typical cheeky Mudhoney fashion. Towards
the end of the record, "A Brief Celebration of Indifference"
comes as a nice surprise, being a rollicking instrumental with wailing
guitars, galloping drums and bass - strangely like a Thin Lizzy
number from the distant past.
Overall verdict - a solid record with the band striving to remain
relevant in these dark days, but ultimately not likely to win too
many new fans.
1. Where Is the Future?
2. It Is Us
3. I Saw the Light
4. Endless Yesterday
5. Empty Shells
6. Hard-On for War
7. A Brief Celebration of Indifference
8. Let's Drop In
9. On the Move
10. In Search of...
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