Mudhoney – “Vanishing Point” Album and Record Release Party

The year of great new albums continues, this time with Seattle’s godfathers of grunge, Mudhoney.  April 2013 marks the 25th anniversary of Mudhoney’s founding from the ashes of the great Green River, a band that for my money can make a very strong claim as the ground zero of grunge.  Consider.  Following Green River’s demise, Mark Arm and Steve Turner went on to form Mudhoney, a band that is still around today and releasing cool albums.  Meanwhile Stone Gossard, Jeff Ament, and Bruce Fairweather formed the nucleus of Mother Love Bone, which seemed destined for chart success before the untimely death of frontman Andy Wood at age 24.  Fairweather went on to local Seattle favorite Love Battery, while Gossard and Ament participated in the one-off all-star supergroup Temple of the Dog before helping form a pretty famous band called Pearl Jam.  That’s an amazing amount of success to come out of Green River.

I remember buying the “Touch Me I’m Sick” single and playing the hell out of it, along with the “You Got It (Keep It Outta My Face)” and “This Gift” singles and the band’s self-titled debut LP.  I would never claim that I was the biggest Mudhoney fan out there by any means, but most of us, at least in my circle of friends, were convinced they were going to be the band that broke the Seattle scene.  Turned out we were wrong.  But Mudhoney still kicked ass, and “Touch Me I’m Sick” became “Touch Me I’m Dick” in the movie Singles, the anthem of Matt Dillon’s fictitious band Citizen Dick.  The band contributed a song to the soundtrack, “Overblown,” for which they were paid a considerable sum of money but later admitted that they spent less than $200 recording.

Last night was the Seattle record release party at Neumos for Mudhoney’s new LP, Vanishing Point.  This isn’t the first time we’ve seen them live, but actually the third.  In fact both prior shows were also at Neumos, so we knew what to expect – a somewhat older crowd (remember, the peak of Mudhoney’s popularity was in the late 1980s/early 1990s), but one that wasn’t afraid to get after it.  Big time.

Opening act Universe People kind of left me flat, with not much really happening on stage and songs that all seemed to have the same cadence, making me almost wonder if they weren’t playing the same song over and over again.  Punks Unnatural Helpers were up next and they tore it up in a blistering 30 minute set that must have included at least 20 songs.  They were fast, energetic, and obviously having a great time, and I think I’m going to need to pick up their newest album Land Grab and check them out.

And then came Mudhoney.  They opened their set by playing straight through the 10 tracks that make up Vanishing Point, and the music was an impressive mix of faster and slower songs, all of them heavy (more on the album later).  The crowd was definitely into it, but you could tell there was a little tension building as the energy level increased and the anticipation grew for some of the old classics.  When Arm announced they were about to play the last song from the new album, someone in the crowd shouted, “Touch me I’m sick,” to which Arm good-naturedly replied, “That is not the last song on the new album!”  But that fan and the rest of the audience wouldn’t have to wait much longer.

Following a brief break the band came out for their second set, and jumped right into the opening chords of their most popular song, “Touch Me I’m Sick.”  Within maybe three seconds the first fan ran onto the stage and flew headfirst into the crowd, followed fairly quickly by two more stage divers while Mark Arm played on with an amused grin on his face.  The mosh pit, which up to that point had been active but not over the top, flat out exploded in to a sea of swarming, sweating bodies.  A few fans were lifted up out of the crowd and surfed the pit, some coming back down on their feet, others on their heads, though the moshers were quick to help anyone who hit the ground, much to their credit.  There wasn’t any fighting, or any idiots throwing sucker punches, just a bunch of people losing their minds together.  Other classics followed, and both the band and crowd played off each other for the rest of the night.

Unfortunately I never got my hands on a copy of the new album – amazingly it hadn’t arrived at the merch table prior to the doors opening, and when I tried to head back over there towards the end of the show there was a huge crowd packed in the lobby area waiting to get into a DJ set going on at the other club in the basement, and frankly it didn’t look like the kind of crowd I wanted to wade through.  I guess I’ll have to wait for Vanishing Point to officially drop on Tuesday.

That, however, won’t keep me from giving you a quasi-review, since I heard the whole thing played live and iTunes already has some long cuts posted from each of Vanishing Point‘s 10 songs.

The album is unmistakably Mudhoney, something almost guaranteed due to Arm’s unique voice and style.  Musically this is a band that shows it’s 25 years of experience – Mudhoney’s sound gets cleaner and their talent comes through more and more with each new album.  Let’s be real, they’ll probably never recapture the raw energy of their sound of the late 1980s, which was a combination of them being the right bunch of guys, at the right age, in the right place, at the right time.  They’ve matured as musicians and it shows, and they still have their place in the music scene, especially in Seattle.

But while Vanishing Point is a musically mature album, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t still have an edge and that the guys don’t still have a sense of humor.  “I Like it Small” isn’t a double-entendre, it’s about what it implies – small manhood.

I don’t need no Magnum,
A snub nose will do just fine.
And I’ll take G.G. Allin,
Over Long Dong Silver any time.
— “I Like it Small”

If you’ve ever seen footage of GG Allin live, particularly those shows where he ended up singing naked (which, as near as I can tell, was unfortunately most of them), you’ll get the reference.

The wittiest song is “The Only Son of the Widow from Nain.”  Not a lot of bands other than those on the Christian music circuit go to the New Testament for inspiration, and if they do they generally don’t look to the less well-known stories like this one, the first example of Jesus raising someone from the dead.  In this case the formerly deceased seems pretty stoked about getting a second chance.

They say you can’t keep a good man down,
I feel good and I’m up for another round.
I’m comin’ back,
I’m comin’ back,
I’m comin’ back,
For more!

That being said, the widow’s son still has a bone to pick with his place in history.

They call me the only son of the widow from Nain.
Nobody remembers my name.
Fucking Lazarus got all the fame,
I’m the only son,
I’m the only son,
I’m the only son,
Of the widow from Nain!

There are some other fun tracks here too, like the ode to hookups that you can’t remember called, aptly, “I Don’t Remember You,” and the intriguingly titled “Douchebags on Parade.”  Even when the lyrics are funny they carry a biting edge – this isn’t comedy, it’s satire, it’s social critique.  There’s a depth there if you’re willing to just take a second to think about it, and I’ve always liked that about Mudhoney’s lyrics.

If you ever get a chance to see Mudhoney, do yourself a favor and get a ticket.  I can’t vouch for how their shows are outside of Seattle, but from reviews and stories I’ve read I suspect you’ll get an experience similar to what we’ve had each of the three times we’ve seen them in their hometown over the years.  Definitely pick up a copy of Vanishing Point, and if you order it from Sub Pop, there’s actually a good chance that Mark Arm himself will package it and get it shipped out to you – since he’s the warehouse manager for the label when he’s not busy being a rock star.  If that’s not down to earth, I don’t know what is.

All photos with the exception of the album cover, Copyright Jeff @ Life in the Vinyl Lane, 2013.

Be Bop Deluxe – “Live! In the Air Age”

I felt like I had some weird relationship with Live!  In the Air Age before I’d ever even heard it, or any of Be Bop Deluxe’s other albums for that matter.  I first ran across a copy months ago at the local used record shop and the cover caught my eye, all crazy and futuristic in the way that people 50 or 60 years ago imagined the future would look (the pic on the front and the two and the reverse from from the 1927 file Metropolis).  It’s a double album, and one of the discs is in white, which is cool, but at the price of $20 I decided to take a pass (and I believe it’s still on the shelf there today).  Fast forward a few months and I came across a copy in another used record store, this time with a $10 price tag.  How could I not buy it now!  My prudence saved me $10!  But I still wasn’t feeling it, so I left it to sit forlornly in the miscellaneous B section sandwiched in between the Bangles and Berlin.  So last week I chuckled when it appeared once again, this time at Sonic Boom Records in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood.  But this time the price tag read $3, and I knew it was time for me to pull the trigger and see what Be Bop Deluxe was all about.

Be Bop Deluxe was a sort of prog rock band from the UK that spanned from around 1972 to 1978.  Live! In the Air Age was released in 1977 as a double album, or maybe more precisely an album-and-a-half, with a live LP on white vinyl and a black three-song studio EP.  Sort of a weird idea, but hey man, it was 1977, the same year that brought you the Seattle Mariners, the Son of Sam, and the Atari 2600.  I don’t know what any of these things have in common, but I can’t help but sense there’s some thread connecting them somehow.

As for the music, it’s prog rock, sort of a jazzy/new wavish fusion.  It’s certainly not bad, and the live songs sort of meander all over the place and make for pleasant background music while blog writing.  It’s not quite “something I can ignore,” but it isn’t a distraction either.  Sort of easy listening for the rock fan, though a couple of the songs do kick it up a notch and exhibit some kind of fancy electric guitar work.  The band always felt that they had trouble capturing their live vibe on studio albums, so they were excited about the opportunity to release live tracks that showcased the more free-form aspects that defined their live shows.  And having listened to both the live LP and studio EP, I’d have to agree with them, as the live material is much more interesting.

I’m glad I finally got around to buying a copy of Live! In the Air Age.  But I’m also glad I didn’t drop 20 bucks on it.  If you can find it cheap, it’s worth your time.  And if not, wait around… eventually it will turn up for the right price.

Kungfu Rick – “Motivation to Abuse”

“The time has come for someone to put his foot down.  And that foot is me.”
— Dean Wormer, Animal House

That audio clip opens Kungfu Rick’s Motivation to Abuse, a collection of intense crust-core explosions disguised as songs.  The 14 track LP released in 1999 spins at 45 rpms, and the songs are quick bursts of screeching power.  My favorite is “1000 Knuckles Rubbing,” which closes out side A and opens with a slow, heavy, plodding intro before picking up speed and alternating between fast and slow for the rest of it’s relatively short life.  That same formula opens side B with the title track, “Motivation to Abuse,” one of the few songs that you can sort of follow the lyrics on.  After that it’s back to the insanity, with some solid hardcore grooves but vocals that leave me wanting a bit more (as in wanting to be able to understand them more).

A number of movie audio clips are sprinkled throughout the album, though other than good ole Dean Wormer to open the record, I can take or leave them.  What is kind of funny, though, is that the album contains a sort of bonus track – after the last “official” song on side B (“The Dating Game”), Kungfu Rick includes about a minute or so of the Carl Douglas disco classic “Kung Fu Fighting.”  Not a cover version, mind you.  The actual Carl Douglas version!  Though a cover version would probably have been pretty killer too.

Supposedly this is limited to 1,500 pressings, and mine is on marbled green vinyl – though I can’t speak for other colors that may or may not be out there.  Grindcore is a bit much for me personally, but it’s still a pretty cool album in short bursts.  But certainly not something to chill out to.  Unless you’re chilling out in the middle of a riot that’s taking place in the middle of a tornado inside a deep cave near the center of the earth.  Full of locusts.  In which case it might be the perfect soundtrack.

April 28, 2013 Update:  Less than two weeks after I wrote this post Holly and I took a trip to Iceland.  While there I made a point of buying lots of records, of course, and one of my stops to do some digging was the Reykjavik flea market because I knew there was one guy who sold nothing but vinyl there, plus I figured I’d run across a random box of records here or there.  Which is in fact what happened when I came across a booth that was mostly clothing but also had a box of assorted CDs/DVDs and one of records.  About half way through the box, what do I come across?  Motivation to Abuse.  I literally laughed out loud when I saw it.  How the hell did that get to Reykjavik?!

Blackboard Jungle Dub – “The Upsetters”

I know very little about dub.

OK.  That’s an exaggeration.  I basically know nothing at all about dub.  But that didn’t stop me from picking up this 2012 re-release of Blackboard Jungle Dub’s The Upsetters in a limited edition (of 2,000) box set of three 10″ records.  The price was right, and it seemed like it would be chill.  And it was.  In fact, it was the perfect accompaniment to some very nice rye whiskey last night while Holly and I just hung out after a rough day of work.

If that isn’t a top notch endorsement, I don’t know what is.  Get some dub.  Chill out more.  It’s good for you.

The Blasters – “Over There: Live at the Venue, London”

The Blasters are, simply put, good ole fashioned rock ‘n’ roll, almost a tribute to rock’s genesis and sped up a bit.  Are they rocky ‘n’ roll, rockabilly, punk?  I don’t know.  And I don’t care.  It doesn’t matter.  What they are is really talented, and their spins on old classics are awesome.  Over There:  Live at the Venue, London is short – it’s six songs last under 15 minutes, and five of the six are covers including “High School Confidential” by Jerry Lee Lewis, “Keep a Knockin'” by Little Richard, and Roy Orbison’s “Go, Go, Go.”  The only original number is “I Don’t Want To” which opens side B, but the style is such that you can’t really tell it apart from the old classics.

If The Blasters don’t get your toes a tappin’, you might be dead or in need of some Prozac or something, because this is good time rock with lots of energy.