Here comes sickness once more – Seattle veterans Mudhoney re-emerge from the wilderness for their first album in five years and, as you might expect, they’re pissed off. Politics became a more obvious part of their oeuvre thanks to 2006’s brass-bolstered ‘Under A Billion Suns’, which took aim at the George W Bush-led invasion of Iraq, but here the band’s wrath takes on broader themes – the rise of the alt right, the depravity unleashed on social media, the pomposity of the baby boom generation… they’re all here.
This being Mudhoney, none of this is done subtly. Recognising that po-faced hardcore rarely got its point across as well as the cartoonish ire of Jello Biafra, Mark Arm sneers his way through these diatribes, laughing bitterly at their ridiculousness while driving home the point that These Things Are Bad. On ‘Paranoid Core’, he plays the part of a cynical media rabble-rouser (‘Beware the city’s dazzling lights where dykes are waiting to steal your wife,’ he growls, as you shuffle uncomfortably in recognition), while ‘Kill Yourself Live’ suggests an easy way to way to rack up Facebook ‘likes’ with all the delicate care of a boulder rolling through a greenhouse. If he sounds like an old man chortling to himself at a successful skewering of the younger generation’s playthings, that’s at least part of the point.
But aside from this righteous ire, one of the best things about ‘Digital Garbage’ is how much fun it is. Common wisdom dictates that the band peaked early with 1988’s ‘Superfuzz Bigmuff’ and/or 1991’s ‘Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge’ (admittedly with good cause), but one of the less-mentioned facets of their post- millennial LPs has been the ease with which they’ve spread their wings. Put simply, this record rocks – if their early sound was arguably an amalgamation of key influences (Blue Cheer, Scientists, Black Flag, 70s Alice Cooper, etc), more recent efforts find ‘em breaking that sound back down to its individual components and filling out the results with a mean low end courtesy of bassist Guy Maddison and drummer Dan Peters. Opener ‘Nerve Attack’ grooves in a way that the band could not have possibly managed in ’88, and it suits them.
What else? Well, we get plenty of punk sludge (the marvelously titled ‘Hey Neanderfuck’), blues-drenched balladry (‘Messiah’s Lament’, told from the perspective of a very miffed-sounding Christ) and yammering pianos (‘Please Mr. Gunman’), all topped off with Steve Turner’s garage-flecked guitar wizardry and Arm’s most invigorated snarl in years. This may not quite be the best punk rock album about the Trump era you’ll hear in 2018 – fellow 50somethings Superchunk already had a decent crack at that title – but it’s certainly one of the year’s most enjoyable bundles of rage. A thoroughly welcome return.
Words: Will Fitzpatrick
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