The world is filling up with trash. Humanity remains addicted to pollution despite the planet getting hotter by the minute. People are downing horse dewormer because some goober on television told them it cured COVID. Tom Herman of pioneering avant garage band Pere Ubu still doesn’t have his own Wikipedia article. The apocalypse, it seems, is stupider than anyone could’ve predicted.
Fortunately, the absurdities of modern life have always been prime subject matter for Seattle-based band Mudhoney. The foursome take aim at all of them with barbed humor and muck-encrusted riffs on Plastic Eternity, their 11th studio album.
Mudhoney (vocalist Mark Arm, guitarist Steve Turner, bassist Guy Maddison, and drummer Dan Peters) remain the ur underground group, their gnarly primordial punk stew and Arm’s sharply funny lyrics as potent a combination as they’ve been since the band’s formation in the late 1980s. From taking on climate change from the perspective of the climate if the climate tried to play guitar like Jimi Hendrix (“Cry Me An Atmospheric River”) to a driving rock and roll song about taking drugs meant for livestock (“Here Comes the Flood”) to a classic punk attack on treating humans like livestock (“Human Stock Capital”), Plastic Eternity is a heady run through all the proto-genres of guitar rock with a keen eye on the inanities of the world in the 2020’s.
The recording of Plastic Eternity delivered several firsts for the band. With Maddison planning on moving his family to Australia, Mudhoney was forced to work on a deadline, booking nine days at Crackle & Pop! in Seattle with longtime producer Johnny Sangster. Since the pandemic had made it impossible for them to convene in their practice space for nearly a year and a half, this meant they were going in to make a record with an assortment of half-forgotten riffs and nascent ideas rather than fully-fledged, well-rehearsed songs.
This was unusual for a band used to writing songs by “standing in a room and looking at each other and playing,” says Arm. “We had the time and space to think about things as we were doing them, and to make a kind of course correction—to use a fucking terrible cliche.” They built “Flush the Fascists” around a looping synth line, broke out a harmonizer on two tracks, added a vocoder to “Plasticity,” and even created a protest song out of a spontaneous jam on “Move Under,” the chorus of which Arm calls “something the Runaways might have come up with if they were us.” “Undermine the foundations/ Of the lies that they repeat,” implores Arm on the chorus. “You gotta move under/ Until it all comes down.”
Plastic Eternity also marks the first time Mudhoney has given writing credit to anyone outside the band, thanks to Sangster, whom Arm calls “a brilliant musician and way more adept at musical theory than any of us,” stepping in at times to offer advice on where the songs could go.
Also unusual for Mudhoney: Plastic Eternity contains two genuine love songs. The first is for the aforementioned Tom Herman, one Arm’s favorite guitarists and the protagonist of “Tom Herman’s Hermits.” Then there’s closing track “Little Dogs,” an paean to the simple joys of hanging out with tiny canines, and one in particular: Arm’s Pomeranian, Russell, whom he couldn’t bear to give up after fostering him, sure that any other owner wouldn’t allow the little fellow to “let his freak flag fly.” No irony here—just gratitude to a little pal in dark times.
So it seems, despite its mordant delivery and crusty exterior, Plastic Eternity is not just a rebuke to the constant attacks on our intelligence and our planet—it’s an ode to the connections we make with other living beings. What is the persistence of Mudhoney but a testament to that? When asked why they continue making records nearly four decades after forming, Arm’s answer is simple.
“We like each other and we like being in a band together,” says Arm. “Some people have poker night or whatever the fuck, and they have the excuse to get together with their friends. For us, this [band] is that. This is what we do.”
- Souvenir of My Trip
- Almost Everything
- Cascades of Crap
- Flush the Fascists
- Move Under
- Severed Dreams in the Sleeper Cell
- Here Comes the Flood
- Human Stock Capital
- Tom Herman's Hermits
- One or Two
- Cry Me an Atmospheric River
- Little Dogs