Saturday, 30 January 2016

Mudhoney Goin' Back to Ritzville

I long ago lost count of the number of times I've seen Mudhoney play but opening self-styled "middle aged folk singer" Barton Carrol was new to me. Playing an acoustic guitar alone he had to battle crowd chatter but bearded Mudhoney guitarist Steve Turner joined him for a couple of songs which helped. He had a bit of amusing banter between songs about his Appalachian roots and saved the best for last, a song about an unfortunate German woman's experience at the hands of Russian Soldiers at the end of the second world war. Rape was subtly implied but not made explicit. The folk angle continued with Wolf People, a dynamic English two guitar quartet. Although they had the same instrumental set up as Mudhoney their sound was more akin to Fairport Convention and Arbouretum. The singing guitarist and bassist had haircuts that looked very English Civil War.

Mudhoney might not throw themselves around like they did a quarter century back but these jovial children of the Stooges played with as much raw power as ever. As they were playing the Ritz, it would've been great if they'd opened with "Ritzville" or at least played it, but that was not to be. Instead the single from "Piece of Cake" hardy perennial "Suck You Dry" did the honours and "Into the Drink" and "I Like It Small" ensured energetic lift off. Four songs in Steve Turner struck up the "Cinnamon Girl" coda they lifted to start "Broken Hands," a song I don't think I've heard them play since the "Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge" tour, and also the song I'd have asked for if I'd had a request so I was happy. Mark Arm looked mournfully down what could be the best nose in rock as he wailed desolately about the bones in someone's hand getting crushed. Old favourites "Sweet Young Thing" and "Poisoned Water" really got the crowd moving but everyone slowed for
"Beneath the Valley of the Underdog." That segued nicely into a revved up punk attack on anti-abortionists "Fearless Doctor Killers" which I at first mistook for a new song, it being so long since I'd listened to 'My Brother the Cow!' In the end they played no new songs but what the hell? They had enough old ones! Touring with no new album out is quite unusual and it was good of them to do so. They had plenty of old albums, DVDs, T-shirts and badges to sell anyway. Unlike Wolf People they had no tankards but had a neat line in advertising those tankards for their support band between songs, and bassist Guy Maddison took great pride in swigging from one. He also had to laugh when someone heckled a request for their Spacemen 3 cover "Revolution." A request for "Let It Slide" also went unheeded, but we did get many righteous blasts from the past: "Flat Out Fucked," "Get Into Yours," "No One Has" and sadly just one song from 'The Lucky Ones' "I'm Now." Of course "Touch Me I'm Sick" got the biggest reaction, and their most psychedelic song in the set "Sonic Infusion" wrong-footed many clappers with its false ending. Way too much booze got thrown about considering how expensive it is in the Ritz, but thankfully none of it was in skull crushing Wolf People tankards, The end of the long set of more than twenty songs found Mark Arm let loose from guitar, free to twist and shout around a mike lead at one point dangled from up above his head as he sang skyward. Amongst the 'Vanishing Point' songs "What to do with the Neutral," "The Final Course," "The Only Son of the Widow from Nain" and "Chardonnay" were a couple of old punk covers; Angry Samoans' "You Stupid Asshole" and the Dicks "Hate the Police." As the latter is a frequent finale it was a surprise when "Chardonnay" followed it with even more hate. After some collective stomping they were back for a fine five song encore of "You Got It," "Who You Driving Now?" "Here Comes Sickness," "When Tomorrow Hits" and "In'n'out of Grace." The last two were neatly segued: as Mark sang, "That's the lowdown" he hit the opening "In'n'out" chords and soon Dan Peters was playing the most welcome silly extended drum solo in rock as Mark and Steve drank and watched. Guy joined in on a bass run and the tension was released in the most cathartic muffin' explosion of super fuzzed gunge grock that day. No wonder they end so many of their gigs that way.

This review was written for Optical Sounds zine.

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