Vanishing Point

Time was that you’d hardly expect Mudhoney to last until the end of the year, yet here they are, these fine purveyors of snot-nosed garage rock, about to celebrate their quarter of a century. Of all the bands to have emerged from the Pacific Northwest at the arse end of the 80s who, in all seriousness, would have bet on Mudhoney being the ones to have made it so far? After all, this was the brashest and most juvenile band on the block but, just as importantly, they were the most fun. Not for them soul-searching, chest-beating or self-flagellation, Mudhoney were – and remain defiantly so – the aural equivalent of mooning to the Queen or dropping a cheekily squeezed fart in a packed lift with little more than a barely contained smirk by way of an apology.

And so it goes with Vanishing Point, the quartet’s ninth album. While it can be argued that the last time they truly surprised was almost a decade ago with the neo-psychedelia of Since We’ve Become Translucent and, to a lesser degree its follow-up, Under A Billion Suns, there remains a re-assurance in these grooves that here is a band that knows what is does best and is perfectly happy to play to its strengths.

‘Slipping Away’ ushers in the album in fine style. While their sound may be a little bit more refined than in days of yore – and for ‘refined’ read ‘less fuzz, more overdrive’ – all the hallmarks of what make Mudhoney such a continued joy are all firmly in place – that’ll be Dan Peters’ propulsive drumming, Guy Maddison’s low-end rumble, Steve Turner’s snaking lead breaks and Mark Arm’s hilariously low-rent philosophising – and, as evidenced by ‘I Like It Small’, it feels as if Mudhoney are just about ready to out-Stooge The Stooges. Indeed, the latter tracks proves to be one of the album’s stand outs courtesy of some convincingly furious playing and Arm’s laugh-out-loud declaration that, "When I orgy I cap it at 12" whist admitting that "I’ve got balls enough to admit I like it small".

But while the likes of ‘Chardonnay’, an explosive howl of rage that combusts in less than two minutes, satisfy and amuse in equal measure, ‘Vanishing Point”s lows are prominent in inverse proportion. ‘What To Do With The Neutral’ is one of those tracks that lives up to it name for all the wrong reasons as the meandering ‘Douchebags On Parade’ succumbs to the band’s most puerile sensibilities.

Not that this is a criticism that should be levelled at Mudhoney with any great degree of seriousness. If anything, Vanishing Point is a vital lesson in how to do this growing-old-disgracefully lark right. Unlike many of the peers who fell by the wayside succumbing to death, drugs and, more worryingly, real life, Mudhoney are one of the very bands to negotiate the ability to pay their rent on time while kicking out the jams when mood, material and circumstances allow. And that really is something to celebrate.

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