Mudhoney is a band best experienced live, and that’s been true throughout their career. Whether it was a good show or not, you were always guaranteed to be entertained. So it’s a surprise to learn that the band has never previously released an (in the words of the press release) “unlimited-edition, non-bootleg live Mudhoney album.” That problem’s finally rectified with the release of LiE, which translates into “Live in Europe.”
First, it must be said that as the first wide-released Mudhoney album, it’s a shame we don’t get a full show. It’s a mere 11 tracks; the band’s shows last year ran twice as long. Second, to these ears, Mark Arm’s vocals sound somewhat buried in the mix; not as in-your-face as I’d like them to be. Though that too can be part of the concert experience.
What’s most interesting here is the range of songs. Think “Mudhoney” and what’s the first song that comes to mind? Probably their signature tune, “Touch Me I’m Sick.” But you won’t find it here. Nor do you get many of the songs you can generally expect in a Mudhoney set: “You Got It,” “Sweet Young Thing (Ain’t Sweet No More),” “In ‘N’ Out of Grace.” But it is a nice mix of songs spanning nearly the entire range of the band’s 30 year career (heavens, can it really be that long?): one song from Mudhoney (1989), two from Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge (1991), one from Piece of Cake (1992), one from My Brother the Cow (1995), one from Tomorrow Hit Today (1998), one from The Lucky Ones (2008), three from Vanishing Point (2013), and “Editions of You,” originally released on the 1999 single “Butterfly Stroke” and later placed on the March to Fuzz compilation (2000).
That last track is of special interest because it’s a cover of a Roxy Music song; compare it to the original to truly appreciate how the Mud crew fuzzed up what was originally a slice of glam-pop (the band always has fun with their choice of covers). It’s also fun how the track lineup provides such a perfect crash course in what it means to Mudhoney, tripping from “Get Into Yours” (Mudhoney), to “Poisoned Water” (Tomorrow Hit Today), to “The Final Course” (Vanishing Point); how is it possible that the band’s become more, not less, forceful over the years? It’s also smart in choosing songs that shine a light on Mudhoney’s less familiar material; how many cheer when they hear the opening chords of “Touch Me I’m Sick” but don’t pay as much attention to the rest of the set.
LiE is available as a vinyl album and a download (no CD). But wait! How could there be a Mudhoney release on Sub Pop without some kind of limited edition tie in? Turns out there is; head on over to Sub Pop’s merch store, and you’ll find a pre-release limited edition version of the album that comes on “milky clear” vinyl, has different cover artwork, and includes a bonus single. Limited to 500 copies, collectors; start your engines!
One thing that has changed for Mudhoney over the years is their consistency. “Back in the day,” the shows could be erratic, sometimes ending in absolute chaos. That’s unlikely to happen now; after 30 years, they’re a supremely confident outfit that knows exactly how to get the job done (and consider that they’ve only had one lineup change during that time). In other good news, this is just a taster for what’s to come; a new studio album is expected later this year. So there’s no end in sight for the band that continues to rock on and on and on.