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CD Reviews: Review of Under A Billion Stars by Mudhoney
Thompson Home / CD Reviews Home / Entertainment Channel / Entertainment Web Guide

Click here to buy yourself a copy from Amazon.com Mudhoney: Under A Billion Stars (Sub Pop 2006)

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Man, that whole Seattle scene and the grunge explosion seems like a million years gone now. It happened with a real sense of urgency, and then everyone shifted, or died, or just quit. It was probably the most recent “movement” in rock’s history that anyone still talks about, as far as recent movements go. Well, you know: no one’s going to sit around and discuss how all the boy bands came along later in the ‘90s and dismantled everything. That happens regardless in many decades – that disposable pop that only sells to teens and freaky mothers looking to reclaim some of their own youth. But people still talk about grunge as if it were this big force on the scene.

And it probably was to a small degree, looking back on it all now. It was brief enough, like the initial thrust of punk music, to get rid of the shit that came before it (hair metal) on the radio and give rock and roll a plaid-dyed breathing apparatus. And unlike punk, when it was gone, it was gone. There weren’t all these bands that changed it into “pop grunge” and “emo grunge” and all that crap. Once Cobain and Staley offed themselves and the Soundgarden guys cut their locks and broke up the band, that was it. No, it wasn’t those boy bands that killed the sound. It killed itself. You might as well point a finger at hip-hop and gangsta rap as any bubblegum. But nothing is to blame but the scene’s own implosion for its initial explosion.

But don’t tell Mudhoney that. These guys have been around since then, ever faithful to the Sub Pop label and cranking out the albums consistently as if the world never turned a calendar away from 1992. Hell, even critical darlings Sonic Youth have gone off and done various themes on their various themes. But Mudhoney are sticking it out because it’s what they believe in and I’m sure they’re figuring on that whole grunge revival to come back sometime soon, where they can finally cash in and call it a day.

It’s interesting to hear the band again after all these years. I initially became aware of them during the halcyon “120 Minutes” days of MTV. They left enough of an impression to inspire me to get their then-current release Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge, which included the murked-out good time “Good Enough.” Initial impressions were that these guys were really noisy and committed to that groove, and anything that was seen as catchy on MTV was a fluke. Indeed, nothing else on that album was as funky or as enjoyable as “Good Enough.”

That was back in ’91. It’s now ’06, and Under a Billion Suns is here. Mudhoney sounds the same. This is no surprise. They damned themselves by will all those years ago to stick this thing out until the bitter end. They dig doing it, and no doubt the fans have been enjoying it enough to keep their wallets fat enough to keep cranking out the albums. The first song is called “Where Is the Future?” That in itself is funny, as it’s obvious Mudhoney doesn’t “need” a future, as they seem to exist autonomously. 2006 is 1991 is 1977 is 1956, etc. They don’t need the promotion. They don’t need this review. They’ll be doing it another ten years and sounding just like they always have.

It would be easy to say there’s always room for improvement, but once you hit an apex and can level off without descending, you might as well do just that. So to my ears, Mudhoney are still just as boring and relentless at crafting their Seattle garage slop as they ever were. Nothing stands out too much. There are some horns in the mix here and there, but the initial three-song stretch of “Where Is the Future?” “It Is Us,” and “I Saw the Light” (which, when lined up all together like that is a bit spooky to read) shows that Mark Arm and his cronies are still content to fuzz out and crank it loud and deliberate so the neighbors down the block can hear. There are still no “dynamics.” Mudhoney is Mudhoney is a cheese sandwich.

Still, you’ve gotta hand it to ‘em for doing it this long. So there you go, Mudhoney. If you ever get really thrilling, do let me know. In the meantime, here’s a couple stars on your rating to keep you coasting. Not that it matters. You’ll be around as long as the cockroaches and Pamela Anderson’s boob implants. Those damn terrorists could win and there’d still be you. And well, it’s always comforting to have some constants in this world. There are certainly worse things that those could be. But a little excitement never killed anyone.

~Jason Thompson


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