Despite Mudhoney’s first London show in two years taking place in the middle of parent label Sub Pop’s 20th birthday celebrations (which are yet more poignant given singer Mark Arm’s current day job as manager in the label’s warehouse), perhaps the lasting legacy of early ’90s Seattle can be seen in the ludicrous grunge ‘waddle’. Like a cockroach on the cusp of Armageddon, it simply refuses to die.
In light of not knowing a better word to use, it’s a ‘dance’ that involves swaying from side to side, shoulder-length hair swashing in time to the music, and punctuated by flicking those locks over an earlobe every minute or so – as if the protagonist has awoken from a trance, forgotten they’re at a Mudhoney gig and decided to scrub up for a job interview. It’s a display that could incite violence from the most placid of souls and you can’t help thinking the Seattle quartet deserve better.
See, despite being in the game for 20 years themselves, there isn’t a band alive who sound like Mudhoney. Whereas shows by fellow alt.rock veterans Pixies and Dinosaur Jr might be sights to behold, with Mudhoney you never get the sense that they’d have been better ‘back in the day’ – they’re still more or less peerless in the art of sounding raw, vicious and righteous. They also continue to succeed in making a potentially simplistic formula (Black Sabbath riffage + Iggy Pop howling + Sonic Youth oddness) come on like the mightiest show on Earth. And songs like ‘The Lucky Ones’, ‘Suck You Dry’, and ‘the hit’ ‘Touch Me I’m Sick’ (tonight botched with almost comic genius, a bit like Motörhead screwing up ‘Ace Of Spades’) deserve wild, cathartic, reckless displays of physical approval. Not the listless swaying of lank-haired perennial students.
And yet, as the band lurch into their final tune of the night, a tomb-heavy take on Black Flag’s ‘Fix Me’, NME spots a pocket of the crowd dancing like they’re performing at Satan’s great banquet and praying for the preservation of their immortal souls, their arms lashing through air like a whip upon the back of a rogue Roman centurion. And y’know, that’s more like it.