Essential New Music: Mudhoney’s “The Lucky Ones”

Listening to Mudhoney’s eighth full-length is reminiscent of the tribunal scene in Animal House, where Otter addresses the matter of the Delta house’s relative guilt: “Ladies and gentlemen, I’ll be brief: The issue here is not whether we broke a few rules or took a few liberties with our female party guests. We did.” Mudhoney knows its long suit, is done making anti-Bush statements and has returned to mining the raw sewage that forms the quartet’s aural heritage.

By now, you largely know what you’re going to get with any given Mudhoney release: sludge-coated riffarama, Stooges-like feedback peals that shoot forth from the grooves like lightning bolts, brain-numbing rhythmic primacy and inimitable frontman Mark Arm holding forth with a four-note vocal arsenal that gives new meaning to the word “versatile.” (You’ve got your self-righteous anger, your sarcastic anger, your illogical beer-fueled resentment and garden-variety angry anger, all present and accounted for.) Some will call this regression, but longtime fans will likely call it focused and celebrate the return to form represented on The Lucky Ones.

For starters, the guitars are all courtesy of sonic alchemist Steve Turner. Arm normally plays Super-fuzz to Turner’s Big-muff, but instead he spends the record hanging from the mic stand a la the group’s longtime encore “Hate The Police,” shouting down the hecklers and generally making a nuisance of himself. It gets no more poetic for Mudhoney than the sentiment Arm dredges up on the rocket-fueled “Inside Out Over You”: “In my fucked-up gestalt, I’m a slug in salt, losing its skin.” Mudhoney cranked out The Lucky Ones in a mere four days (including overdubs), and the let’s-just-do-this vibe is palpable. Weird homages to the Velvet Underground (“And The Shimmering Light”), self-affirming punk-rock anti-statements (“The open mind is an empty mind, so I keep mine closed,” Arm sneers on “The Open Mind”) and the band’s patented nihilism (the title track, on which Arm spits out “lucky” with obvious disdain) sit side-by-side like a half-rack of empty Olympia beer cans.

As Otter might’ve finished, the members of Mudhoney aren’t going to sit here and listen to you badmouth the United States of America. They’re going to do it themselves instead, louder and nastier than anything you could possibly dream up.

—Corey duBrowa