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Mudhoney - Since We've Become Translucent

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Artist: Mudhoney

Album: Since We've Become Translucent

Label: Sub Pop

Review date: Oct. 17, 2002

Not Enough Mudhoney

Mudhoney, who last I heard were effectively broken up and parted with a major label, have rather unexpectedly returned to the fray with a new album, and a new bassist, on their old label, Seattle stalwart Sub Pop. Since We’ve Become Translucent finds Mudhoney settled into a middling garage-y choogle that brings to mind MC5’s final album, except less urgent, and lacking the sloppy tear-up-the floorboards energy that characterized Mudhoney at their peak. It’s a strain to come up with a comparison less general than to say Since We’ve Become Translucent brings the band closer to the generic template of sixties classic rock than they have ever been – characterized by being male dominated, occasionally sexual, occasionally rebellious, sometimes vaguely psychedelic, with buzzing guitars and crashing drums which in theory are intense but which in practice do not serve to propel anything substantial.

The vaguely psychedelic part is most evident in the album’s opener “Baby, Can You Dig the Light”, a song whose content would have been generously served by a length a third of its actual eight and a half minutes. An extended intro of feedback and saxophone bleats resembles a watered down Flipper, leading to a repetitious vocal turn from Mr. Arm (I like the sound of that – even if you don’t like Mudhoney, you have to admit the frontman has a fantastic name). When the Stooges recorded an epic this droning and pointless, “We Will Fall”, it was because they came to the studio without enough songs to fill their first album, but since it was their debut as musicians, it’s easy to forgive them. Its less forgivable when a similar song is the introduction to an album by a veteran band – when they should be slamming lead pipes into your splintering shins, they’re muffling your head in cushiony synthetic foam instead.

The problem with Since We’ve Become Translucent is that it doesn’t measure up to the standards Mudhoney set with the undeniable gripping music they produced in their heyday. They were the nineties' best equivalent to the Stooges in snot-nosed, mocking aggression – and since they are an excellent band, a fall-off in quality (or possibly a temporary misstep, a definite possibility since this CD was produced after years away from the studio as a band) does not indicate a terrible album, or one that is painful to listen to, just one that is ultimately unmemorable. In a sense, it’s reassuring to know that Mudhoney are still around and standing, considering they’ve been through the meat factory of major label stewardship – and although they’ve retained a few battle scars from the experience (alluded to in lyrical content of the new songs), they haven’t come back from whatever shit storm they’ve been through with an album likely to excite anyone but the faithful. Which is not a pleasure to report. There are things to enjoy here – “In the Winner’s Circle” and “Take it Like a Man” are pleasing, and gain considerably from the droll/bitter tone Mark Arm has been refining for the previous decade, and the violin coda on the closer “Sonic Transfusion” is nice, although the song grinds unmemorably. It’s disappointing to hear Mudhoney come across as a shadow of their former self.

By Mark Hamilton

Other Reviews of Mudhoney

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The Lucky Ones

Vanishing Point

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Find out more about Sub Pop

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