In the late 1980s, when the legendary Seattle band Green River split into two bands -- Mother Love Bone and Mudhoney -- it was the former that got most of the attention, if only because after a couple desultory releases, some members went on to form Pearl Jam.
Mudhoney, however, both came out of the gate with a classic Superfuzz/Bigmuff on Sub Pop) and are still at it. The Lucky Ones is their eighth release, and the first since 2006’s Under a Billion Suns. Rumored to have been recorded in a mere three days, it shows the band in typical form, alternating high-energy grunge with mid-tempo sludge.
As befits an originator of a singular sound, there is much here that will sound familiar to fans: sludgy, Nuggets-like guitar, pounding, semi-tribal drumming, and sneering but knowing vocals. Mudhoney’s brand of blue cheer never gets old, but also never gets deeper.
Unlike on other releases, Steve Turner handles all the guitar work, with Arm just singing. Turner’s riffs and solos have always been the bedrock of the band’s sound anyway. A listen to the intros to the title track or to “Running Out” and all that has always been glorious about Turner’s playing hits home. Likewise, the signature rhythm that has served as the bottom for all their records, through several drummers -- that kind of evil tribal, conga-from-hell rhythm -- makes “Inside Out Over You” and “And the Shimmering Light” instant Mudhoney greats.
Arm continues to write deft haikus about being lost in his own mind, or in being unable to fathom the actions of others. He’s always been able to deliver a killer line -- remember “I’m so sick of what I need,” or “Good things come to those who wait -- I wanna come!”? Here he serves up lines like “The past makes no sense/ The future looks tense,” “You caught me flying by/ The seat of your pants” and “What the fuck/ He thinks he’s going out in style.”
Arm has never gotten the respect as a writer that fellow Generation Xers like Paul Westerberg or Bob Mould have gotten, but he belongs up there with them. The Lucky Ones shows him to be as reassuringly sarcastic and self-deprecating as ever.