Monday, December 12, 2011

I'm all over your action!

Mudhoney live at The Brisbane Hotel, 7/12/2011. /with support - Precious Jules, Moe Grizzly.

If music is meant to be healing, then I could only imagine Mudhoney as a circular saw cutting through a gangrenous limb before the necrosis takes hold. That's healing, right?

Upon entering the Brisbane Hotel, I could have forgiven myself for a night of pure indulgence, having never seen a gig at the Brissy before, it was somewhat like entering a time-warp. But I resisted the urge to go ‘all retro’ and had a few beverages before Moe Grizzly brought the noise. They didn’t help, mind. Their sound took me back to many a pub-gig from the nineties (the trombone being an added feature). The growing crowd numbers seemed to appreciate the art/noise/rock and while they didn’t really take the bull by the horns, they did show a rich palette and oozed credibility.

Next up, Precious Jules took a no-fuss approach. Kim Salmon - looking like a bearded Brett Whitely, dressed in a sleeveless T-shirt and tie - and drummer, Mike Stranges blasted into their set with serious intent, trying to revive the spirit of The Sex Pistols or maybe the New York Dolls with an avalanche of short, acerbic tunes. Although interestingly, it was the track Too Uptite, with its more architectural, circular riff that had the Doc Martins and Converse sneakers tapping and even brought some shimmy to the fishnets. Salmon was engaging between songs and as expected, perfectly at home. Mudhoney lead-man, Mark Arm even took time to watch from near the desk. Despite only being a two-piece, Precious Jules kept the crowd interested throughout, aided by Stranges accomplished stick-work and solid counter-lead vocals. Was a fine, fine treat before the main course.

Mudhoney eased onto stage after an introduction of chamber music played on church organ (that’s my recollection), launching into a tight routine, combining quick jabs of newer material, followed by the big right-hooks of one of their ‘classics’. And despite mainly being a fan of the first EP and album, I really enjoyed the compact, more neurotic nature of these latter songs, but they still couldn’t match it with the Supernova explosions of tracks such as You Got It, This Gift or Touch Me, I’m Sick. These cornerstone songs have a magical quality, the sound loose and visceral. For mine, it’s not just because these songs have seminal status in the grunge pantheon that they received the most rapturous reception.

It seemed, for the most part, the band was enjoying themselves, although the mask of sincerity got broken from time to time, tracks like Sweet Young Thing (Aint Sweet No More) and Here Comes Sickness are in retrospect, David Lynch/Garage goofs - but that’s okay! The last third of the set saw Arm put down his guitar and play a more traditional front-man role, sonically, the band lost a bit, but by that stage it didn’t matter, minds had been blown! The crowd settled into a sweaty, engorged reverie.

The main realisation, from not having seen Mudhoney for many years, was the power of Mark Arm’s vocals. And I feel a need to compare, while Kurt’s voice was an emotional full-spectrum roar, Mark Arm seems to have this zero-point energy, engaging a spot on his vocal chords and making it just distort-to-buggery: but with depth and menace, always cutting through the chaos. And Mudhoney still are, and always have been, a very loud band. In an alternate, Alternate Universe, Mark Arm could have been the Iggy Pop, even *cringe* the Billy Idol of Grunge with just one awesome single and promotion etc. But as he steered everyone through the final bends, it became obvious, Mark Arm is a better performer with guitar-in-hand, most notably, as Arm and his Comrade-in-Muff, Steve Turner brought it home with their best impression of back-masked duelling guitar solos, propelling In and Out of Grace from a crowd favourite, double-time breakdown into face-melt overload. Guy Maddison was a big presence throughout the night on bass, but without a drum-riser it was harder to fully appreciate Dan Peters, although the drum-fills still came as thick and fast as ever.

There was a short encore, and with a quick verbal assassination of The Smashing Pumpkins, it was over. Expectations met: pure and simple.