The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website

Reviews

Mudhoney
Digital Garbage Noel Gardner , October 1st, 2018 06:55

Astute, relevant and raging

Mudhoney Delivered An Epic Clapback And People Are Screaming! Mark Arm Is The Woke Bae We Need Right Now! Donald Drumpf, Sir, You Have Been Officially Cancelled By This Seattle Rock Band’s Tenth Studio Album!

Okay, I’m being facetious there, but I am being sincere when I tell you that, 30 years since their debut single, Mudhoney have released an astute, politically relevant and commendably fired-up garage punk belter of an LP. Aye, it blindsided me too.

Not to overegg the pudding here – it’s an angry social commentary album in the 80s punk tradition, you’re unlikely to learn anything from its lyrics and at no point does it transcend its creators’ identity as middle-aged white men (nor do Mudhoney purport to be anything else). Rather, Digital Garbage’s strengths are a sheaf of wicked smart one-liners and an equal proportion of killer riffs which lumber energetically, if that’s possible, and which have not been dulled or polished by age or circumstance.

‘Paranoid Core’, the second of 11 songs here, is a hoot: Arm, adding a splash of Jello Biafra to his delivery, assumes the character of… an Infowars-type tinfoil crank, maybe, or an older-school frother of the Rush Limbaugh ilk; someone making it their business to “stoke the fire in your paranoid core”. “Beware the city’s dazzling lights / Where dykes are waiting to steal your wives,” the vocalist scoffs over a great shitkicker punk backing that sounds like a relic of early 80s Australia. “Fight the Jews, homos, Muslims, Chinese / Playing militia in the trees!”

Then there’s ‘Kill Yourself Live’, whose lengthy intro of groovy slide guitar and Mysterians-type organ precedes a plausibly Black Mirror-influenced scenario of social media self-cancellation. “Use a filter with bunny ears, maybe add some dancing fruit… do it for the likes,” eyerolls Arm, 56, and yes, it is certainly true that his generation has an ignoble tendency to berate millennials for their extreme onlineness; on the other hand, this song is a reaction to actual documented events, so generational self-satisfaction isn’t called for here either.

Mudhoney’s humour is darker than ever in 2018, as well it might be. ‘Please Mr Gunman’ sings from the perspective of a group of future victims addressing their mass shooter-to-be: if they have to be slaughtered, they wish it to happen in church where the holy setting will curry God’s favour, rather than at the mall (engulfed by materialism) or in school (where they teach evolution). There’s more anti-Christian pelters – ‘21st Century Pharisees’, whose lyrics ironically feel rather late 20th century – and, sporting an almost Fu Manchu-like stoner riff, ‘Hey Neanderfuck’, which I presume is about the bloc of nihilistic Trump voters who now find themselves alarmed by the fruits of their labour. (“Thanks for inflicting your misery / On the rest of us.”)

By the album’s twilight, and ‘Next Mass Extinction’, they’ve weighed up the last half-hour of topical content, concluded humanity’s a bust, and shruggingly soundtracked it with some lowdown harmonica honk which explodes into a textbook Mudhoney salvo of yowling proto-metal. “Nothing will replace us...” repeats Arm, referring to homo sapiens but simultaneously revelling, you might think, in his band’s own armour-plated dinosaur status. Feels like it’ll take an asteroid to kill ’em off at this point, and respect’s due for that.

If you love our features, news and reviews, please support what we do with a one-off or regular donation. Year-on-year, our corporate advertising is down by around 90% - a figure that threatens to sink The Quietus. Hit this link to find out more and keep on Black Sky Thinking.