March to Fuzz
"Grandpa, do you remember Lollapalooza?"
"Lollapa -- ... That's a name I haven't heard in years. Let's see, you probably know that your grandmother and I met at Lollapalooza 7 at the piercing booth, right?"
"Anyway, that Perry Farrell! What a character! Trying to bring social consciousness and alternative music together. Back then, pop music was in one of its dull periods, between different types of awful. Halfway between hair metal like Poison and Mötley Crüe and juvenile bands like Backstreet Boys and 'N Sync, alternative rock thought it could change the world. During the Reagan and Bush years, the country, ya know, was in kind of a funk. Lollapalooza was important, but in a much smaller way than punk in the late '70s. But still, it mattered.
"Here, Johnny. Let me dig up some old CDs... ugh... you probably don't remember CDs do you?"
"Anyway, here it is. In my hands is a great introduction to the sight, sound and smell of grunge. It's a singles, B-sides and rarities collection from the Godfathers of Grunge, Mudhoney. It's called March to Fuzz. It has all the good, bad, stupid and funny qualities of sludge rock of the early '90s. This band, like a lot of bands, came out of Seattle. It was made up of the members of Green River who didn't join Mother Love Bone, the band that begot Pearl Jam. This band, this Mudhoney, took its name from a Russ Meyer film and got its inspiration from cheap, cheap beer. How's that!? Cheap beer! And somehow, ya know, it all works. Up until then, liking Black Sabbath meant you couldn't admit to liking Black Flag, and vice versa. Mudhoney appropriated sounds from both and became the Kings of Lo-fi.
"In 1988 Mudhoney released a firebomb of a first single on the legendary Sub Pop label, 'Touch Me I'm Sick,' which is probably one of the finest grunge songs ever. With primal screaming and the thudding twin guitars of Mark Arm and Steve Turner, Mudhoney forced punk and metal to co-exist on equal terms. This was the song that the band would rewrite for more than a decade.
"I know this double-CD is a bit bloated at 52 songs, and you could probably understand the band just as well by listening to its debut, Superfuzz Bigmuff. But there are songs here that barely saw the light of day that deserve to be heard. 'Ounce of Deception,' a B-side from the band's Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge period, for instance: It's a good one. Slide guitars nearly bury the single-note piano melody as riffs pile up on top of each other. Real nice-like.
"Listen to the way 'Sweet Young Thing (Ain't Sweet No More)' is a combination of a melody a child could sing with woozy, bluesy guitars and garage-rock drumming. That was the essence of Mudhoney and, by extension, grunge. Simple, classic.
"Ahhh, when I was your age..."
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