Mudhoney – Since We’ve Become Translucent – Review


Since We’ve Become Translucent (Sub Pop)
by Brian Varney

…And so I sit, incense burning, a can of PBR in my left hand while I type with my right, my never-good posture slumping further with each passing minute of the new Mudhoney CD. It has been 15 years since “Touch Me I’m Sick,” a long time for a rock band. Most bands burn out well before that and the ones that do last seem to lack inspiration, as has been the case with this band’s output for last decade or so, the new albums popping up every three years or so, each as generally uninspired as the last. The last Reprise album, Tomorrow Hit Today, was OK, but it was a far cry from the band’s early greatness.

When a band reaches this point, it usually breaks up or just sort of fizzles out. What these bands almost never do is come back, completely reinvented, with their strongest album ever, but I’ll be damned if Mudhoney hasn’t done exactly that. These guys have always been able to write a song when compelled, but with this latest release (their first for Sub Pop since the dismal Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge), they’ve harnessed this uncommon ability to a complete reinvention of their sound, but one that is plainly not an affectation.

Since We’ve Become Translucent sounds like nothing else Mudhoney has ever done, something which is apparent with the first droning notes of eight-minute-plus opener “Baby, Can You Dig the Light.” These guys have always talked a pretty good game about their professed love of late-’60s/early-’70s hard rock (Blue Cheer, for instance) and psych (13th Floor Elevators are a preferred reference point), though their sound always seemed more based in ’60s garage/punk and ’77 punk. Apparently, all the talk about Blue Cheer and the Elevators wasn’t just spaghetti, since this is the most rock album they’ve done; there is none of the bullshit garagy meandering that ruins a lot of the band’s output, just solidly-constructed rock songs that are classic in structure and yet uniquely the band’s own. And the psychedelic elements are sprinkled throughout for shade, contrast, and color.

The aforementioned opener drones on for three minutes before Mark Arm even composes himself enough to approach the microphone, and even then, his words are obscured, drowning in a Leslie cabinet while a saxophone screeches in the background like it wandered away from side two of Fun House and just sorta turned up. The horns actually turn up on several songs, adding nice touches like an Eternally Yours-esque austerity to “Where the Flavor Is” and “Take It Like a Man” while guitars wail their approval from the heights of wah pedal Valhalla.

A bunch of other cool stuff happens, but I can’t remember so well because it’s quite a few beers later (I’d count but I just knocked all the cans off the desk and they’re rolling around on the floor, making a racket like some kind of crazy bowling alley) and the CD ended an hour or so ago. I haven’t been able to train my dog to start the CD over for me yet, so I’ll have to sit here and write about it until I can muster the coordination to stumble over to the stereo and push “play” again. Until that moment, though, let me impress upon you that Since We’ve Become Translucent is Mudhoney’s best album by an embarrassingly wide margin and anyone claiming any sort of allegiance to “the rock” will feel much better about himself with this sitting on their CD shelf.
(PO Box 20367 Seattle, WA 98102)