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Under A Billion Suns
Sub Pop Records

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.

-Gareth Bowles

Track listing:
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...
11. Blindspots

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