Mudhoney – Plastic Eternity (Sub Pop) (Album Review)

Mudhoney

Mudhoney has just released their new album, Plastic Eternity, celebrating their 35th year together. The 13th Floor’s Jeff Neems weighs in with his thoughts.

A musically astute friend of mine describes grunge as “the music that killed Guns’n’Roses”.
It’s an apt description for the American college rock/alt rock sound which emerged in the late 1980s and early 1980s, and as someone who never understood the attraction of hair metal rockers like “the Gunners” I for one am eternally grateful it occurred.
That said, the term “grunge” never sat comfortably with me – due in large part to the fact record companies of the early and mid-90s slapped the “grunge” moniker on marketing for any number of alt rock and heavy rock acts they rushed to sign and promote during the period.
“Grunge” became a tired and hackneyed phrase, and although the category included some truly marvelous bands – Mudhoney, Dinosaur Jr and Soundgarden among them – it ultimately became a yoke around the necks of some very good guitar-driven bands who continued to crank out solid albums while the mainstream music industry and media moved on to whatever the next fad was.
Mudhoney, the Seattle act who formed in 1988 and who’re synonymous with the term and the label Sub Pop, is one such example.
The group’s early albums (Mudhoney, Superfuzz Bigmuff and Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge) typify the sound of the era – raw, powerful, loud and heavy, while never veering into heavy metal. I went to a Mudhoney concert in London in 1994 and it was easily the most defeaning and intense rock’n’roll show I’ve attended.
These days Mudhoney do an album about every five years, and Plastic Eternity – released just in time for Easter listening – sees the band roar through 13 grunty runes of their trademark guitar-powered edgy rock’n’roll.
Now, admittedly, I haven’t bought a Mudhoney album in a while, so I can’t really compare this to more recent offerings like The Lucky Ones (2008), Vanishing Point (2013) and Digital Garbage (2018). So if you’re a hardcore Mudhoney fan, this review won’t mean too much to you.
However, if – like me – you’re a returning fan, Plastic Eternity is a quality listen.
Throughout the album there’s a funky and bluesy feel, although the band never veers far from the ferocity and ear-splitting kaupapa they’re renowned for. Only two tunes stretch out for more than 4 minutes, meaning the rest are the familiar short bursts of sweet Mudhoney goodness.
The voice of main man Mark Arm sounds particularly excellent on Severed Dreams in the Sleeper Cell, which fluctuates between a dabble with shoe gaze to the familiar balls-out Mudhoney sound.  The lead-off single Little Dogs reminds the listener of The Pixies, while One or Two has an almost electric alt-country feel.
Mudhoney are unlikely to ever achieve the t-shirt or album sales as peers such as Nirvana and Soundgarden, but they deserve maximum respect for sticking faithfully to the musical form they helped craft, never turning their backs on their roots and truly showing how it’s done.
Plastic Everything – with tunes such as Here Comes The Flood, Flush the Fascists and Human Stock Capital – hints at a Mudhoney contemplating the 21st century’s assorted crises, and wondering what the future may hold.
As an example of a band which has perfect its craft, Plastic Everything shines a light on Mudhoney and it’s a record old and new fans alike should explore.

Jeff Neems

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Jeff Neems