Mudhoney crafted a rude debut with 'Superfuzz'
By NICK TAVARES
STATIC and FEEDBACK editor
David Fricke once wrote that in rock and roll, attitude was nine-tenths of the law. It’s pushed many bands from the depths of mediocrity and into the good clubs, onto turntables and signed to major-label deals. Sometimes it’s a sneer, sometimes it’s a scream, but the gift of rude is a key component of plenty of great albums.
That rudeness is present on plenty of the great rock and punk records of the past few decades. The Who, the Stooges, Sham 69 and even Jet all have at least a hint of that better-than-you swagger. There’s an inherent nastiness that pushes each album over the top of the rock heap, whether it’s Fun House or Get Born. Actual songcraft may vary from band to band and song to song, but it’s the in-your-face attitude that often determines whether the end result will work.
The late-80s scene in Seattle was a breeding ground for bands with this style. The Melvins, Green River, Soundgarden and, of course, Nirvana all cut their chops around this time. The one unifying trait between these four otherwise disparate bands was the edge they all displayed. Each show and record was a crime scene for the uninhibited and the chaotic.
Green River didn’t survive, but their splinter band, Mudhoney, certainly thrived. And that band’s earliest document, Superfuzz Bigmuff plus Early Singles, encapsulates one of the most frantic times in rock’s relatively young history.
Mudhoney’s fuzz-box-driven musical scrawl drives the listener to extremes. The opening “Touch Me I’m Sick” set the tone for both the album and the period, with Mark Arm screaming about less-than-sanitary solicitations over Steve Turner’s dissonant, unpolished riff. The mental image of four dudes with scraggly hair, ripped jeans and sneakers diving off of a 5x5 stage jumps through the track. It’s a punk classic if there ever was one, a primer for pissing off your parents.
The rest of the album follows suit nicely. “You Got It (Keep It Out Of My Face),” “Sweet Young Thing Ain’t Sweet No More” and “Chain That Door” couple the rude with a sense of domestic doom unique to punk. Another highlight is “Halloween,” a snarled, twisted cover of a Sonic Youth track that originally appeared on a split single with the New York darlings of noise. On that single, Sonic Youth returned the favor with Kim Gordon screaming her female perspective on “Touch Me I’m Sick.”
Mudhoney has lasted through the years and matured into a tough, rough and ready rock band since 1988. They’ve maintained their initial spark and edge, but their recorded work, even if it passed it in craft, never matched the unhinged energy of Superfuzz Bigmuff. It’s the product of youth, fun and just the right amount of rage, spread through four guys on 12 tracks.
Pop it in some time, crank the volume, and ignore the pleas for mercy from your neighbors. The angry calls from your landlord will be well worth it.