Friday, August 21, 2009

August 21: Mudhoney, "Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge"

Artist: Mudhoney
Album: Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge
Year: 1991
Label: Sub-Pop

Though bands like Pearl Jam, Nirvana, and Soundgarden all found far greater commercial success, the fact of the matter is, had it not been for the "true" originators of what is now called "grunge" or the "Seattle sound," those bands may have never found such fame. Before all these bands rose to fame, Mudhoney was pioneering the sound that would make them famous, and after one listens to Mudhoney, the amount of influence they had on all of the so called "grunge" bands is more than obvious. From the production to the style of playing to the sound of the vocals and instruments, it is this band that paved the way, yet barely received any accolades in comparison. As one of the most prominent bands on the now sacred Sub-Pop record label, Mudhoney also stand as one of the earliest "indie" bands, and they have been a large influence in the sense of their originality as well. The band has released eight studio records over the past twenty years, and they remain together to this day, though there have been a few changes in the lineup. Mudhoney's second album for Sub-Pop, 1991's Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge, is by far their finest musical moment and remains one of the greatest and most influential recordings in music history.

First off, to get it out of the way, the album title is obviously a play on the mnemonic that is used to remember the note sequence of the treble clef in music writing. After listening to only the opening two songs on Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge, it is beyond obvious where Nirvana took a great majority of the sound they used on their breakthrough record, Nevermind. In fact, one might even go so far as to say that Nirvana ripped off these two songs and changed them slightly for their own record. Regardless, Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge is a phenomenal album in every way, from the solid song writing to the amazing music to the perfect production. The album sounds dirty enough that it retains the raw mood that defined the grunge sound, yet simultaneously is clean enough that the lyrics and music are not lost. This amazing balance is largely due to lesser known, but absolutely phenomenal producer, Conrad Uno. Though this is by far his best known work, he also produced the debut record for Presidents Of The United States of America, as well as a number of smaller, Seattle-based bands over the years. His ability to keep the bands' organic sound fully intact, whilst keeping the album clean sounding is what defined the grunge genre, and it is impossible to overstate his importance in creating this sound.

The music of Mudhoney is a unique fusion of heavy metal, early punk, and in many respects, mid-1960's rock. This louder, more aggressive feel is largely due to the presence of Melvins founder, Matt Lukin on bass guitar. His deep grooves and more forceful playing style helps to give the album a far more direct and confrontational mood than anything else at the time. The dual guitar sound of Mark Arm and Steve Turner is sensational, as they find the perfect balance between making loads of noise, and crafting it into a brilliant, organized, chaotic sound. Drummer Dan Peters may actually be best known as the drummer on Nirvana's song, "Sliver," which he recorded before being replaced by Dave Grohl. The sound he achieves on Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge is nothing short of fantastic, and one would be hard pressed to find an album of the time on which the drum sound is so perfect. Aside from his guitar work, Mark Arm also adds some organ playing to the album, and it is very much the sound and mood created by this instrument that sets the album aside from the rest of the bands' catalog. The albums' first single, "Let It Slide" perfectly sums up everything that makes the band so uniquely amazing as the drumming is reminiscent of the mid-1960's surf-rock style, while the guitars are extremely aggressive, and the vocals lain overtop are a perfect balance of the two.

If there is one aspect of Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge that stands out from the rest, it is very much the vocals of Mark Arm. Arm (real name Mark McLaughlin) sings in a somewhat detached, somewhat snarling style that one cannot help but compare to a Funhouse era Stooges sound. The energy he brings to each vocal is superb, and one can clearly hear the influence he had on the vocals that Dave Grohl would bring with Foo Fighters. At times, as on the song "Who You Drivin' Now?," Arm almost sounds as if he is sitting in with The Pixies, as his wailing strikes a strong resemblance to their song, "Debaser." Arm solidifies himself as one of the most talented vocalists of his time on the bands' uncharacteristically long song, "Broken Hands." The six minute runtime of the song is nearly triple that of any other song on the album, but the song itself is sheer brilliance, as the band prove that they are more than capable of writing long songs with just as much power and impact. The lyrics found on Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge are as strong and angst-fueled as any you'll find, and this is yet another reason why Mark Arm is held in such high regard. The slightly aggressive, absolutely unique manner in which he delivers his fantastic lyrics had a massive impact on the artists who followed, and it is a key aspect that makes the music of Mudhoney so incredible.

There are truly few bands who had as much impact on the musical explosion of the early 1990's as Mudhoney. Even outside of music, their impact on the culture can be seen as solidified by the fact that in the indie/grunge cult-classic film, Singles, the band "Citizen Dick" (which is, in fact, members of Pearl Jam) records a song called "Touch Me I'm Dick" which is actually a play on the Mudhoney classic, "Touch Me I'm Sick." With their dirty, yet straightforward sound, and the manner in which they blend the power and volume of punk and heavy metal with the more loose, more open sound of mid-1960's rock sets them far away and above a majority of their contemporaries. The rhythm section of Matt Lukin and Dan Peters rivals that of any band in history, as the duo drive the songs into a frenzied state and make the music absolutely addictive. Mark Arm and Steve Turner are equally impressive with their crushing guitar sound, and their tone and style of playing is what truly ignited the grunge explosion. Arm's vocal style and overall approach to music is clearly the inspiration behind the singing of Kurt Cobain, and one can also hear how he influence the singing of Eddie Vedder as well. As is often the case, the innovators of style go largely unnoticed, while those who follow find great commercial success. There are few times that it has been more true than in the case of the band that served as the primary example for the entire "Seattle sound," Mudhoney. Easily one of the most brilliant and dynamic bands in history, their 1991 album, Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge remains one of the greatest, most influential and enjoyable records ever recorded.

Standout tracks: "Let It Slide," "Broken Hands," and "Who You Drivin' Now?"

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