Grunge was a pretty fucking poor excuse for a movement wasn’t it? Some pretty mediocre bands, a couple of superstars and a pure diarrhoea stream of followers indebted to slow, distorted guitars and half melodies. We’re looking at you Puddle Of Mudd and Nickleback. Luckily there was at least one exceptional band that understood what it meant to trawl through the gruesome underbelly of cesspool-soured music scenes and poverty-stricken living in Seattle.
That Mark Arm, Steve Turner and Dan Peters are stood (or sat) on a stage in North London, writhing around like the sons of Iggy and flattening buildings with their sleazy, salacious and scuzzy riffs while all being over 40 is nothing short of exceptional.
If you THEN actually look at them – Mark Arm looking at least ten years younger than his 47 years, playful, darting about and flexing to the steamroller rhythms – it puts sister band Pearl Jam into perspective. One of them grew up and one of them didn’t and we all know which one is most fun.
Slamming straight into their cover of Fang’s ‘The Money Will Roll Right In’ (with the immortal line “I get to fuck Brooke Shields!”) before spewing out the first four tracks from last years The Lucky Ones, shows maybe a slight hint of over-confidence mixed with the acknowledgement that we’re all here for a good time, and so are they.
So it is, With Mark’s guitar firmly strapped on five songs in, that we get slicked down with the grimy snake oil of their back catalogue – all garage attitude, dense distortion, howling feedback and dumb delivery. Unlike former Green River bandmates, Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament, Mudhoney understand the need for a sense of humour and to strip rock down to its primal ingredients. They were, after all, the closest the late eighties had to their very own Stooges. Busting out ‘You Got It’ and club classic ‘Touch Me I’m Sick’, we catch glimpses of the youthful abandonment in Leeds exhibitionists Pulled Apart By Horses, as well as the savagery and lowbrow lyrical punts.
The seething, smirking likes of ‘Hard-On For War’ and ‘Sweet Young Thing Ain’t Sweet No More’ can be found worming its insidious way through Pissed Jeans while Black Lips’ garage punk extravaganza is powered by ‘Piece Of Cake’ and ‘My Brother The Cow’-era Mudhoney – tonight thoroughly represented by ‘Suck You Dry’, ‘Inside Job’, ‘FDK’ and the delectably titled ‘Judgement, Rage, Retribution and Thyme’. The punctuated ‘In ‘N’ Out of Grace’ and obligatory set closer ‘Hate The Police’ by The Dicks, only cements the influence of the incredible ‘Superfuzz Bigmuff’.
This EP (and collection of singles) defined grunge and, consequently, any vomit-slathered rock worth its salt. Monotonix wouldn’t be scaring the shit out of you with their drum balancing antics without the paving Mudhoney provided. But arguably Mudhoney stand apart from everyone, not just through longevity and sheer refusal to give in to old age, but from hacking irremovable tunes out of blowtorch aural aesthetic. Their squealing amps and hot-rodded pedals make short work of everyone’s hearing here at Koko, and they could give us all lessons in how to grow old disgracefully.
So, when we hear the atrocities Chris Cornell is committing to tape these days, we must thank these perceived drop-out slackers for being anything but.