Tuesday, September 22, 2009

MUDHONEY, Fulham Greyhound, London
Melody Maker, April 8th 1989

by Simon Reynolds

Tonight, Mudhoney are a chastening experience for me. And, as our "emergent underground" hardens into homogeneity, as certain ideas congeal into a new orthodoxy, so I expect to have more and more encounters as schizoid as this one. See, Mudhoney tonight managed the singular feat of being utterly entertaining, and yet, at some deeper level, tedious beyond belief. I was bored, almost literally, to the brink of tears.

That a band can be this urgent, and yet so uninvolving, this frenzied, and yet so ultimately immobile, this charged, and yet so fundamentally lazy, is a testament to some kind of dire deadlock. The moment has passed, an impasse has been
reached. It would be more rewarding to watch someone struggle, uncomfortably and unsuccessfully, to get to some beyond, than to witness something as consummate as Mudhoney.

For Mudhoney are immaculate. Every thrust, rip, rent, howl, jut and jive is perfectly placed, and asserts, with a conviction that's utterly convinving, that punk's not dead. And I don't mean some privileged moment in '76, but punk as Lester Bangs invented it, the bad boy trash lineage that runs from rockabilly, through Sixties garage, Seventies gumbo metal to contemporary thrash. It's alive and burning still. Mudhoney have the riffs, the songs, the vehemence, the
attitude, the windmilling longhair, the witticisms ... "I'll give $50 to the first guy to come onstage and throw his guts up", "we're not playing another song until they erect a stage barrier", "we're tired of all you over-active young people,
let's have some old people up the front now" ... They've only just begun and already they're washed up, standing still at a point of perfection, giving the people what they want, fitting our talk without testing it, meeting our need without
stretching it.

"Mud Ride" tells the oldest story in hardcore, abduction and murder, froths at the mouth about "taking you any place/there's no place to hide", but no one here is remotely endangered. It's a scenario that's already becoming as cosy as the ritual narratives of heavy metal or Oi.

Maybe Mudhoney exhaust me because every word they incite in my mind feels tired and tame in the mouth. Maybe that's just my problem. But maybe - and it's worth considering - the teen sicko raving bloody mess-thetic is spent. Maybe trash is just trash. Sonic Youth have reinvented New York as a city of ghosts. Spacemen 3 have turned to ether. Pixies are now sculpted in five dimensions. So far, Mudhoney have set things up so that their only future is as the oldest teenagers in town. What they do, nobody does better. Do we need it anymore?

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