Perhaps the definitive word on Sub Pop grunge, Mudhoney took their love of The Stooges and dirtied up the sound even more, with fuzzed out guitars and screamed off-key vocals leading the way. This compiles six early singles such as the demented twosome “Touch Me I’m Sick” (a fuzzy, scuzzy classic, this sleazy stomper remains their signature song) and “Sweet Young Thing Ain’t Sweet No More” (a nasty, darkly intense number with a bluesy feel) along with their first EP, Superfuzz Bigmuff (this album's last six songs). The group mingles and mangles the primal energy and sloppiness of punk with the slow, grinding heft of metal, and Mark Arm screams dumb confrontational lyrics like “you better stay out of my way, I’ve had a bad day” (actually an excellent cover of The Dicks' "Hate The Police", though their 6-minute cover of Sonic Youth's "Halloween" is less successful, alas). This is raw hard rock at its most primitive, helped along by a dirty mix by Sub Pop production maestro Jack Endino that is perfect in its imperfection. Brash, in your face rants are the norm, with slow dirges mixed in with punked up performances that are generally more successful, since the band can become somewhat ponderous when the tempos slow to a crawl. It’s a gloriously sloppy mess overall, and even the lone pretty moments (on “If I Think,” probably my favorite song on Superfuzz Bigmuff) soon explode into ugly noises and blaring guitars thick with distortion. I also appreciate the simplicity and honesty of lyrics like “there’s so much, so much, so much I need” or "I keep looking for something that noone has," especially when accompanied by drummer Dan Peters’ caveman thump and some brutal riffs courtesy of Steve Turner (along with Arm an ex-member of Green River with future members of Pearl Jam). Despite their punk credentials, they’re not averse to a well placed guitar solo, either, and Peters even provides some flashy drum fills and solos as well, while bassist Matt Lukin also helps to powerfully hold down the band's bottom end. In short, this is exciting American garage rock that’s distilled to its purest essence, and cleaning up any part of this untidy mess would only ruin it. For my money, Superfuzz Bigmuff plus Early Singles is better than Bleach (if we're going to compare two early Sub Pop touchstones), though they didn't have a Nevermind or In Utero-level follow up waiting in the wings and were subsequently left at the altar while other grunge peers such as Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, and Soundgarden conquered the world. Note: Also recommended is March To Fuzz, a 52-track, 2-cd compilation released in 2000 that’s comprised of a “best of” and a “rarities” disc. When I listen to a Mudhoney album it typically has “fuzz” in its title!
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