Mudhoney's pure punk rage on full display in Boston
By NICK TAVARES
STATIC and FEEDBACK Editor
There was a point during the breakdown of “In ‘N’ Out of Grace,” with Dan Peters driving the rhythm and Guy Maddison getting the spotlight, where off to the side of the Paradise’s tiny stage were Steve Turner and frontman Mark Arm. Turner was leaning in behind Arm, cracking a joke or throwing an idea his way for the inevitable end to the lull.
And then came the blast. Arm and Turner, lunging at their respective fuzz pedals, launched themselves back to their guitars and the sound was that of a goddamn atomic bomb, all wiry arms and scorched vocals and showmanship and years of punk aggression.
It might have been a move they pull every night, or it might’ve been an audible that they executed as well as if they’d done it every night, simply from the fact that this band has been doing just this, destroying clubs across the country and Europe, for 25 years, and Arm and Turner together have been doing it for even longer than that. But the entire night of pure punk drive boiled down into that one moment — the anticipation, the build-up and the explosion of feedback and strings and pent-up aggression that has been channeled but never dulled over time.
That time is a huge part of why Mudhoney still works so well, both on stage and on vinyl. There have been a number of bands from their era who have broken up only to later reunite, touring the clubs and theaters across the country for plenty of fans happy to see them. And there’s a lot of value in that, and plenty of bands have been able to pull off the reunion without seeming desperate or sad. Mudhoney doesn’t have that concern, however. Having been actively recording and touring for just about their entire run, they’re seasoned, tight and thankfully, still into it.
That much was obvious immediately, as the show kicked off with the first two songs from their latest record, Vanishing Point. “Slipping Away” and the hilarious “I Like it Small” made the confidence and belief in their new material apparent. Arm is just as ferocious a singer as he was in 1990 (perhaps more), and while the rhythm section pounded and hit, Turner screamed down on the pedals and pulled that twisted, psychedelic tone from his guitar, first on these songs, and then all night.
That confidence in their ability was made clear in their setlist choices. They didn’t run from their biggest hit, “Touch Me I’m Sick,” but they didn’t save it for a set-closer or encore, either. Instead, it was tossed in right around the middle, capping off a frantic run that saw older tunes “Judgement, Rage, Retribution and Thyme,” “Sweet Young Thing Ain’t Sweet No More” and “No One Has” ripped out for a crowd that was jumping and moshing. And they were all played with the right amounts of rage, thrash and fun.
And that’s an important point. For all the labels of alternative and grunge that followed Mudhoney and every band from the Pacific Northwest out of that era, this is a punk band. When Arm ditched his guitar on some of the newer songs — 2008’s “I’m Now,” the crushing “Chardonnay” complete with feigned vomiting — he was the distant son of Iggy Pop, writhing and flailing while these screamed verses flew out of his throat. The encore was more punk bliss, with covers of “The Money Will Roll Right In” and “Fix Me” fitting alongside their own stuff.
Of course, their own stuff is what made this such an incredible night, and what makes Mudhoney such a powerful punk band. In that encore, coming out of the break, with Arm screaming “Oh God how I love to hate!” and Turner shredding his guitar and the rhythm erupting, is all the stuff of legend. Mudhoney grew up, but they never stopped and they never really changed. They just got better.
E-mail Nick Tavares at firstname.lastname@example.org