[CD Review] Mudhoney, 'Superfuzz Bigmuff Deluxe Edition' (Sub Pop)

Sub Pop founders Bruce Pavitt and Jonathan Poneman each told me that Mudhoney were so good in 1988 they felt like they were seeing the Rolling Stones in their heyday. Listening to the live bonus stuffing on this fat, 20th-anniversary reissue package of Mudhoney's debut EP, Superfuzz Bigmuff, it's easy to see why: The in-your-face fierceness here rarely has been matched. Guitarist Steve Turner thrashes the shit out of it, and Mark Arm wails like an animal just released from captivity.

Timed to coincide with Sub Pop's 20th anniversary, this deluxe edition of Superfuzz Bigmuff is a well-justified tribute from a label that would barely exist if not for this band. Sure, Nirvana kept the label afloat financially (at least at first), but artistically, Mudhoney embodied everything Sub Pop wanted to stand for at that time. Songs such as "Need," "No One Has" and "Sweet Young Thing Ain't Sweet No More" are the last great middle-class white-boy angst anthems.

Informed by a deep knowledge of punk, '70s stadium and stoner rock (a combination that came to be known as "grunge"), seasoned with the Pacific Northwest's insularity, Mudhoney were kings of the scene from their inception. Though the genre is now historically noted for its gloom and doom, Superfuzz Bigmuff belies the goofball we-don't-give-a-damn attitude of which Mudhoney were a crowning example. Listening to the raunch & roll of "Here Comes Sickness" and "In n' Out of Grace," it's obvious the band loved nothing more than swilling canned beer, pissing on other people's shrubs and cracking inside jokes. These were the guys who would draw penises on your face with a Sharpie if you passed out too early.

With this reissue, Sub Pop gives us the EP in its original running order, plus demos, two previously unreleased tracks ("The Rose" and "Twenty Four") and a second disc of live performances, including their landmark across-the-pond debut from Berlin in October 1988. This material particularly gives us the most essential distillation of the Mudhoney experience. Aside from their extraordinarily unhinged delivery, Mudhoney come across as a band unconcerned about first impressions. After burning through "Sweet Young Thing," Arm turns to the crowd and says, "Pull your pants down if you like us!" He pauses, giggles, then adds, "No one likes us."


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