Mudhoney Under a Billion Suns

[Sub Pop; 2006]

Rating: 2.5/5

Styles: stoner rock, grunge, sleaze rock, hard rock, dirge
Others: The Stooges, Dead Meadow, Judas Priest

Okay, let me get this outta the way: Aside from "Touch Me I'm Sick" (heard in the grunge doc Hype!) and "Flat-Out Fucked" (heard off a mixtape from a friend's older brother) I've never listened to Mudhoney. Here's my rock critic badge, but I'm keeping my sidearm. That way when the punk rock historical foundation calls me out, I won't have to go into the street with just my poseur mouth to defend me. I'm generally a non-violent guy, but listening to this moose scrotum-bag of puke tricks, I'm ready to go shoot up some affronted hipster faces and put the cherry in their coke-bottle glasses. So approach with caution, elitists. I may not be as hip as I'd hoped, but I'm so mean right now I just caught my sneering reflection in a nearby mirror and horked a big fat snotzi at it. I can't help it! Under a Billion Suns has put me in a frame of mind so nasty I've got what little ego I have held face down, flailing about in my stomach bile.

These swampy rock anthems, as crawling with cynicism and sneering sentiment as they are, don't seem to inspire rowdy fist-pumping so much as listless, non-committal body-rocking. But they're anthems, nonetheless. At this point, they'd have to be, seeing as how some of these dudes must have wives, kids, and mortgages by now. The fact that Sub Pop is still putting out their records is evidence alone that Mudhoney have managed to remain bitter, despondent punks at heart. The title track is almost reflective in tone, lyrically, but Arm's voice doesn't lose its rasped, snotty bite. Throughout the LP, Mudhoney rides pretty heavy on attitude, which smacks the listener down well enough. Then there's that clean guitar solo on "Empty Shells," and you realize something ”” these songs suck! They're regurgitated Sabbath riffs with horns! They may be executed with prowess, but their bandied crassness isn't just a tried-and-true style, it's a tiresome cliché. I guess the Sabbath-riff argument could also be made for Dead Meadow, but at least they've got some versatility and songwriting chops. And there seems to be some real soul behind their posture, rather than just punk scene veteran jadedness.

The most these rock 'n' roll stalwarts have going for them on this LP is some occasionally imaginative, subversive lyrical content. The best example on here has got to be "Hard On For War." It's a pro-war song, but not of the Toby Keith variety. This one's about a town where all of its young men have gone off to fight. So "dirty old man" Mark Arm picks up the slack and bags as many of the remaining women as he possibly can. Since many of our young women are and have been in the military, I guess the fable may be a bit of a stretch. But it's still an enjoyable bit of naughty. Perhaps if the rest of these tunes showed as much of a flair for setting a seedy scene, we'd have something more engaging than a sinister sludgerock parade (with horns). Apart from the backdrop of their longevity as a band, most of the record's anthemic quality is embodied in the lyrics ”” that sort of nihilistic raping and pillaging strut ”” but by the end this high and mighty stance can begin to feel a bit humdrum. The playing is always energetic and endearingly rough around the edges, but the songs themselves pale in comparison to the grandeur implied by the album's title.

But hey, it's probably for the fans that they don't try anything radical. It's for the fans that are instantly bored with all that Manatee Familee and Grow Your Gills Breathe Water type shit out there passing for music. Nobody names themselves after Russ Meyer movies and plays real RAWK music anymore! It's for all the late-'80s club rats that never changed and never wanted the scene to either. Despite being competently charged and cohesive as a whole, this latest Mudhoney record feels uncompromising in the most lifeless sense of the word. Cred badge or none, I don't need to have absorbed the band's back catalogue to observe this. And if you don't like it, I'll be glad to re-grease your stringy rock hair with your own brains.

1. Where is the Future?
2. It Is Us
3. I Saw the Light
4. Endless Yesterday
5. Empty Shells
6. Hard On For War
7. A Brief Celebration of Indifference
8. Let's Drop In
9. On the Move
10. In Search Of
11. Blindspots