Album Review: Mudhoney—LiE (Live in Europe)

 

 

When many people think of Seattle bands, and grunge in general, it’s the same handful who made it big: Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains. But if you dig deeper you find bands who, while never breaking through commercially the way grunge’s ‘Big 4’ did, were in many ways just as good and in some cases just as important, who helped establish and inspire the whole scene—bands like The Melvins, Tad, and Green River, whose brief lifespan splintered into the aforementioned Pearl Jam and fuzz-rock heroes Mudhoney.

Led by guitarist/vocalist Mark Arm, Mudhoney is entering its 30th year of making its own brand of what became the Seattle sound. Not as polished as Pearl Jam, not as dynamic as Nirvana or Soundgarden, not as metal-tinged as AIC, Mudhoney exist in their own space of blues-tinged garage punk and haven’t deviated a whole lot from the raw noise of their first legendary single, 1988’s “Touch Me I’m Sick”—and that’s just fine.

Pulled from various shows on their 2016 European tour, LiE is a sort of defacto greatest hits compilation (despite the absence of the aforementioned signature single) that shows the band hasn’t lost a step since the heyday of Doc Martens and flannel shirts (and the band’s cameo in Black Sheep).

The raw, fuzzed out distorted guitars are still there, the frenetic energy is still there, and Arm’s voice still sounds almost exactly as it did in 1988. The album doesn’t quite have the same feel as a lot of live albums, perhaps due to the way songs were cherry-picked from various shows rather than a single concert, and also the way it was recorded (through the sound board without a lot of crowd noise). Make no mistake, it definitely sounds live, but not “concert” live—more like you’re listening to a garage band with pretty decent equipment jamming out in your living room. And there’s certainly nothing wrong with that.

Standout tracks include Poisoned Water, originally on 1998’s Tomorrow Hit Today, Judgement, Rage, Retribution and Thyme, the opening track from 1994’s My Brother the Cow, and Suck You Dry, the first single off 1992’s Piece of Cake LP, and Mudhoney’s only single to chart in the US. Although to be fair, picking favorite tracks is rather arbitrary, as the album is strong from start to finish, showcasing the bands buzzsaw sound and punk energy throughout—your picks for favorite tracks may vary.

Either way, it’s a strong showing for a veteran band that proves they can still bring it live, and creates high hopes that Mudhoney’s new studio release later this year will be just as good.

Bottom Line: Intense and raw rock from some of grunge’s forefathers, for anyone who wants to relive their 90s glory days or anyone who wants to hear one of the bands that had a major influence on the Seattle bands that are now household names.

Grade: B–

Listen to the album here:

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