By Dave Pehling
SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Arguably the most enduring and cohesive of the Seattle bands that rose to fame during the grunge explosion of the early ’90s, Mudhoney helped put Sub Pop and the burgeoning North- West on the map when the label unleashed the sleazy punk grind of the band’s 1988 single “Sweet Young Thing Ain’t Sweet No More/Touch Me I’m Sick.”
Principles Mark Arm (born Mark McLaughlin) and Steve Turner began playing in bands with the unserious band Limp Richerds before forming Green River in the mid-1980s with future Mother Love Bone and Pearl Jam members Jeff Ament and Stone Gossard. Hailed by some as proto grunge for their mix of ’70s hard rock and ’80s punk sounds, the band toured nationally and released several records before disintegrating.
Founded just weeks after Green River disbanded with former Melvins bassist Matt Lukin and drummer Dan Peters rounding out the quartet, Mudhoney was also indebted to classic hardcore, fun house-era Stooges, the proto-metal biker anthems of Blue Cheer, and the deep garage-rock heritage of the Northwest (especially the Sonics and Wailers). The outfit created a wild racket that made an immediate impact with the release of its aforementioned debut single and subsequent EP. Superfuzz Bigmuff – named after the vintage Univox Super-Fuzz and Electro-Harmonix Big Muff stompboxes that were the cornerstone of their buzzsaw guitar sound.
After the underground success of the band’s self-titled debut in 1989 and early career peak Every good boy deserves caramel two years later, the band would make the leap from Sub Pop to a major label deal when they signed with Warner/Reprise to release A piece of cake in 1992. Although they fell short of the platinum success of Seattle contemporaries Nirvana, Soundgarden and Alice in Chains, Mudhoney managed to consistently produce one raucous but melodious effort after another throughout the decade, even though the other Seattle bands fell apart amid tragedy. and acrimony.
Mudhoney remained at the label through the 1990s and appeared in the Chris Farley/David Spade comedy Black sheepbut the modest sales of subsequent albums my brother the cow and Tomorrow strikes today (made with famed producer Jim Dickinson, who had helmed recordings for Big Star and the Rolling Stones) led to the record label dropping the band in 1999. Bassist Lukin would leave soon after.
But despite these challenges, Mudhoney would go on, recruiting Lubricated Goat bassist Guy Maddison in 2001 and returning to Sub Pop to release a string of solid albums. Over 30 years after their debut, Arm and Turner are still trading fuzz-filled tracks to the explosive beats of Peters and Maddison and wowing audiences with their ferocious live performances, including a flamboyant set at Oakland’s Burger Boogaloo in 2018. The group has also published digital garbagehis first new effort in five years.
The dossier finds Arm delivering sneering, angry screeds that rage against everything from conservative Christians (“Messiah’s Lament,” “21st Century Pharisees”) and right-wing crazies (“Paranoid Core”) to mass shootings (“Please Mr. Gun”) and social media (“Kill Yourself Live”) for his most politically charged album in years. Although the quartet has not released a follow-up to this effort and the accompanying EP release. Morning in Americalast year, Mudhoney released a 30th anniversary deluxe version of Every good boy deserves caramel featuring the remastered album as well as a treasure trove of alternate takes and demos. This weekend, the band are bringing their current tour co-headlining with equally beloved country-punk pioneers The Meat Puppets to the Great American Music Hall for two nights.
One of the first punk bands to add country elements to their sound, the Meat Puppets began when Kirkwood brothers Curt (guitar) and Cris (bass) first teamed up with drummer Derrick Bostrom in Phoenix in 1980. While their debut EP SST In a car consisted of hardcore punk songs, the band brought more roots elements to their self-titled debut in 1982, covering songs by Doc Watson and Bob Nolan on the hallucinogenic-influenced recording (the band said they were rich in LSD throughout the three-day recording session).
Later efforts Meat Puppets II and Under the sun continued to refine the band’s psychedelic country punk sound. Championed by Nirvana – who had the Kirkwood Brothers play on their MTV unplugged special as guest stars – would be signed to a major label in the early 90s. Despite several breakups and Cris struggling with serious drug addiction issues during the decade, the original trio of members are back with Bostrom joining the band in 2019 – with Curt’s son Elmo Kirkwood on guitar and keyboardist Ron Stabinsky filling out the current lineup. line-up — to record their latest album, Dusty Notes.
Mudhoney and the meat puppets
Saturday-Sunday, May 21-22, 7 p.m. $38-$42
Great American Music Hall