Muck-crusted rock outta Seattl
The world is filling up with trash. Humanity
remains addicted to pollution despite the planet getting hotter by the minute.
People are downing horse dewormer because some goober on television told them
it cured COVID. Tom Herman of pioneering avant garage band Pere Ubu still doesn't have
his own Wikipedia article. The apocalypse, it seems, is stupider than anyone
Fortunately, the absurdities of modern life
have always been prime subject matter for Seattle-based band Mudhoney. The
foursome take aim at all of them with barbed humor and muck-encrusted riffs on Plastic Eternity, their 11th studio
Mudhoney (vocalist Mark Arm, guitarist Steve
Turner, bassist Guy Maddison, and drummer Dan Peters) remain the ur underground
group, their gnarly primordial punk stew and Arm's sharply funny lyrics as
potent a combination as they've been since the band's formation in the late
1980s. From taking on climate change from the perspective of the climate if the
climate tried to play guitar like Jimi Hendrix ("Cry Me An Atmospheric River")
to a driving rock and roll song about taking drugs meant for livestock ("Here
Comes the Flood") to a classic punk attack on treating humans like livestock ("Human Stock Capital"), Plastic Eternity is a heady run through
all the proto-genres of guitar rock with a keen eye on the inanities of the
world in the 2020's.
The recording of Plastic Eternity delivered several firsts for the band. With
Maddison planning on moving his family to Australia, Mudhoney was forced to
work on a deadline, booking nine days at Crackle & Pop! in Seattle with
longtime producer Johnny Sangster. Since the pandemic had made it impossible for
them to convene in their practice space for nearly a year and a half, this
meant they were going in to make a record with an assortment of half-forgotten
riffs and nascent ideas rather than fully-fledged, well-rehearsed songs.
This was unusual for a band used to writing
songs by "standing in a room and looking at each other and playing," says Arm.
"We had the time and space to think about things as we were doing them, and to
make a kind of course correction-to use a fucking terrible cliche." They built
"Flush the Fascists" around a looping synth line, broke out a harmonizer on two
tracks, added a vocoder to "Plasticity," and even created a protest song out of
a spontaneous jam on "Move Under," the chorus of which Arm calls "something the
Runaways might have come up with if they were us." "Undermine the foundations/ Of the lies that
they repeat," implores Arm on the chorus. "You gotta move under/ Until it all comes
Eternity also marks the first time Mudhoney has given
writing credit to anyone outside the band, thanks to Sangster, whom Arm calls
"a brilliant musician and way more adept at musical theory than any of us,"
stepping in at times to offer advice on where the songs could go.
Also unusual for Mudhoney: Plastic Eternity contains two genuine
love songs. The first is for the aforementioned Tom Herman, one Arm's favorite
guitarists and the protagonist of "Tom Herman's Hermits." Then there's closing
track "Little Dogs," an paean to the simple joys of hanging out with tiny
canines, and one in particular: Arm's Pomeranian, Russell, whom he couldn't
bear to give up after fostering him, sure that any other owner wouldn't allow
the little fellow to "let his freak flag fly." No irony here-just gratitude to
a little pal in dark times.
So it seems, despite its mordant delivery and
crusty exterior, Plastic Eternity is
not just a rebuke to the constant attacks on our intelligence and our
planet-it's an ode to the connections we make with other living beings. What is
the persistence of Mudhoney but a testament to that? When asked why they
continue making records nearly four decades after forming, Arm's answer is
"We like each other and we like being in a
band together," says Arm. "Some people have poker night or whatever the fuck,
and they have the excuse to get together with their friends. For us, this
[band] is that. This is what we do."