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Mudhoney - Superfuzz Bigmuff

  by Jeff Thiessen

published: 18 / 4 / 2009

Mudhoney - Superfuzz Bigmuff
Label: Select Label
Format: N/A


Jeff Thiessen examines Seattle-based grunge group Mudhoney's seminal debut EP, 'Superfuzz Bigmuff'

Recently, I’ve started to find flying the friendly skies a very humbling experience. Especially the takeoff. Gazing out the plane, and seeing the world we are leaving and know so well, become so small, so quickly.....it doesn’t take long before I start to feel like a pretty infinitesimal spider who had always saw himself as something worthwhile or at least relevant in his own little bubble of a microcosm. The really overwhelming realization I begin to acknowledge, isn’t the terrifying fact I could be squashed in an instant, although that in itself is a fairly daunting concept to wrap one’s suburban head around. No, what really makes me want to drink the plane dry, is how little effect it would actually have on the world at large. Having said that, I have a feeling Mudhoney’s entire career was a window seat on a 747 thousands of miles above land. Hundreds of things have already been said and written about them; unfortunately most of them were incorrectly attributed to Nirvana. To be fair to the public, it’s not entirely our fault. After all, Mudhoney only released one really great album, and it wasn’t even a full one, as 'Superfuzz Bigmuff' was a six-song EP. Technically I might be incorrect here, but I’m going to round up the 'Superfuzz Bigmuff' EP and for the duration of this piece, refer mostly to this same EP, but the 1990 edition with six previously unreleased singles, as I believe that’s the definitive version that defines their best work. So keep that in mind when I use the original title for shorthand purposes. And we have got to be clear on one thing: Mudhoney didn’t just release 'Superfuzz Bigmuff' and then flame out, in fact to this date, they have eight releases (and counting) since their debut EP, but I think it’s important to basically view this band in the same way we view the Germs, or any other band that just spewed out one big, loud, messy brilliant record then fell off the face of the Earth, even though their discography is nearly at the dreaded double digit number. Music is at a point now, where the conventional public is more likely to embrace William Shatner’s spoken word album 'The Transformed Man' than warm to any music Mudhoney has or will ever put out. Call it a crisis of identity. Snobby musical careerists have forced unhealthy expectations on the band that not only cheapen Mudhoney’s legacy, but that whole amazing couple years before the big, dirty nineties hit. See what is most misunderstood about this group and specifically that album, 'Superfuzz Bigmuff', is it exists in the same prism as the Seeds first record, or the Fugs self-titled one, not just in the sense they share some very distinct aural qualities, but there was just too much rock n’ roll in its most pure, distilled form jammed into all of these respective releases to realistically expect there could actually be anything left on subsequent records. I’m probably going to anger some people when I say this (including myself actually), but not even the Stooges crammed as much unchained melody combined with the most brilliantly displayed visions of utter chaos and astuteness into any of their holy triptych ('The Weirdness' does not exist, it just can’t). Granted, some might say the Stooges did it the smart way, as they paced themselves just enough to put out three seminal records right after another, but I think now that all the dust and heroin has settled from that whole scene, it’s now painfully obvious 'Superfuzz Bigmuff' is one of the best, if not the best, guitar-driven records since Pere Ubu’s 'Terminal Towers' album. In a lot of ways, Mudhoney was truly the archetypal American rock n’ roll band. It was messy, noisy, but clever as hell, and even though the sound was primal and very unprocessed, there was much more to it then casual listeners will always hear, but who cares about them ? They have Nirvana! Speaking of Nirvana, if you aren’t familiar with Mudhoney, and think I’m just trying to be difficult for the sake of territorial pissings, then I have a little experiment for you. Step 1: Open your 'Nevermind' case, and skip all the way past those first three treasured singles, and leave the stereo on track four, which is 'Breed'. Done that ? Ok. Step 2: Play 'Breed', or at least the first 45 seconds of it or so. Step 3: Go buy 'Superfuzz Bigmuff' (I think it’s a fairly safe assumption you don’t have this record), and skip all the way ahead to the ninth track, which is 'In n Out of Grace'. You don’t have to be a musical scholar to see the overwhelming similarities 'Breed' has to 'In n Out of Grace'. Come to think of it, you don’t even have to be an asshole music critic like I am. All you have to have is an innate ability to differentiate between right and wrong, and while they’re both right, one is much more right then the other, and came out two years prior. Still, in the case of Mudhoney, nagging about their lack of recognition is sort of like pissing into the wind and then bitching about nature’s revenge. Simply put, this band was not intrinsically wired to be huge like Nirvana. It’s just not in their circuitry. You know, I’m actually still sort of surprised they were ever even as big as the Screaming Trees. The rampaging nature of 'Superfuzz Bigmuff' EP just took too much out of Mudhoney, whether they knew it or not, and people who loved that album, were just as drained as the band. I hope you aren’t getting the impression it’s some emotional purge that left the band with nothing to say. No, this is more of the sonic variety. Mudhoney were interesting, funny guys, and to this day, I still laugh at a lot of the material on the album, but this is one of those cases with a band having much more to say through their instruments, then in a lyrical sense. In some ways, 'Superfuzz Bigmuff' is an almost prodigious offering, since not only does it sound like they just literally plugged in and timeless bedlam ensued, but for all intents and purposes, from what I’ve read that’s exactly what happened. If there was any self-consciousness on the part of Mudhoney, I sure don’t hear it on this album, and if there are underlying sounds or symphonies hiding beneath the barbed-wire guitar and violent distortion, I have no interest in seeking them out, and I can’t see why anybody would yearn for anything in this music that doesn’t exist at face-value found at the bottom of a pile of beer cans and old, rusty amps. I can blab on all I want about the abandoned brilliance of that first album, but if you really want to get a sense what these guys and their music was like, I’ll share a quick Mudhoney story with you. When they first signed with Subpop and were about to put out 'Superfuzz Bigmuff', they went to the label and said they wanted 'Sweet Young Thing (Ain’t Sweet No More)' as the single, a driving, bluesy dirge that contained little to no commercial value. After much discussion, the group agreed to release 'Touch Me I’m Sick' as the first single off the album, and it’s probably their biggest hit to this date. But that’s beside the point. Mudhoney just didn’t know. They didn’t get it. And that’s what great records are made out of. And that’s the prime ingredient to all but ensure a band’s potential can only be realized in one, muddled godsend of an offering. Mudhoney just didn’t know.

Track Listing:-

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Mudhoney - Superfuzz Bigmuff

Mudhoney - Superfuzz Bigmuff

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