Mudhoney - Under A Billion Suns
During the late 80's and early 90's the grunge movement was making it's first, tentative steps out of Seattle and into the subconscious of the youth of America, and soon enough, the World. Maybe not at the cusp of the wave like Nirvana and Pearl Jam but without Mudhoney none of it would have been possible. Never reaching the heights of the aforementioned bands, they've had a band of loyal followers in the following decades and have had to come to terms with the changing music scene and losing a founding member. However they're back and sounding refreshed, invigorated and seemingly possessing a conscience.
Certainly the first thing that strikes you about this record is the sheer bile that's oozing out of every song. The brutal opener of Where Is The Future? is a rallying call to the false promises of past governments and the lack of any kind of social planning for not only future generations but the present ones as well. And, to top it all, there's a brass section. As the guitars churn away during the chorus, trumpets are creating a more uplifting thread, a sound that should be odd, jarring and alien but, in fact, augments the sound and seems to refresh it.
The presence of the brass section seems to reflect Mudhoney's new lease of live, its use proof that they don't want to be seen as past masters but as a band who can change and adapt their sound. As I've mentioned though, that's not to say they've mellowed. This new social conscience percolates through all the songs on here from the anti-War song of Hard-On For War to the rock 'n roll stomp of It Is Us and it's comments on modern society "I see a problem and it is us".
It would be easy to get weighed down by these lyrics and topics, but it doesn't fell like it. They still know how to create a straight forward alt-rock gem or two during the process. In Search Of... begins with all fuzzed up guitars and a haunting, almost Sabbath-esque riff and Ozzy vocals full of desperation and longing. Blindspots, the album closer, is a perfect conclusion to proceedings; it mixes all the previous elements into a perfect post-grunge track full of great swashes of guitars with that brass section making an appearance again and acting as a perfect counterbalance to the fuzz. In fact the song descends into an almost Jazz finale with the brass section duelling and chiming with each other before it ends in an almost post-coital comedown.
It's not possible to call this album a "return to form" as it's not! This is a sound of a band who've almost rediscovered themselves again, realised that they can make music that they enjoy, with an agenda that doesn't become too over powering and they should be complimented for that alone. It's just an added bonus that it sounds so good whilst they're doing it.