Mudhoney: Plastic Eternity [Album Review]

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Plastic Eternity
Sub Pop Records [2023]

Thirty-five years in, and two years after the Deluxe Edition re-release of their second full-length album, Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge; 30th Anniversary, Mudhoney has nothing to prove. Formed by singer/guitarist Mark Arm and lead guitarist Steve Turner, after their band Green River, which also included Pearl Jam’s Jeff Ament and Stone Gossard, the Seattle band looked to metal’s heavy guitar hooks and the energy and DIY spirit of punk as they forged a sound that came to be marketed as “grunge.” While most of the more popular bands coming out of the scene – PJ, Nirvana, and Soundgarden – appear driven by angst and vitriol, Mark Arm’s lyrics were often funny, even mocking.

Plastic Eternity, the 12th album from the band, has all the signs of being a post-pandemic release. The disc opens with a couple of strong rockers that express the sense of lost identity and time, no doubt thanks to months of isolation. Returning to the new normal, Arms sings that “everything seems the same/yet, I can tell that everything has changed,” so that all that’s left of his person is a “Souvenir of My Trip,” which includes a late-60’s influenced psychedelic guitar solo from Turner. “Almost Everything” is driven by a propulsive drum rhythm from Dan Peters,” while Arms’ lyrics try to make sense of the so-called multiverse where “all of time is happening all at once.”

Several tracks take on the weird emphasis on retail sales that drives our capitalist economy, where we can’t stop purchasing “Cascades of Crap,” and so-many delivery people were treated like “Human Stock Capital,” with popular press talking up “essential workers,” but Arms points out that “essential means expendable.” And all of this produces mountains of “Plasticity,” which the album title reminds us will always be with us, forcing our troubled eco-system that sustains life as we know it to “Cry Me an Aptmospheric River,” plagued by weather systems “turning the earth into the planet of the damned.” While Arms finds plenty to be angry about in the 24-hour news cycles (“Flush the Fascists”), he celebrates the Pere Ubu’s founding guitarist in “Tom Herman’s Hermits,” and “in times of trouble” he’s ready to shout out his love for “Little Dogs.” Mudhoney stays in their comfortable groove here, building songs around fun guitar hooks, and reliable band jams. The quartet is completed by bassist Guy Maddison who also adds the occasional synthesizer, and get some assistance from producer Johnny Sangster, who knows how to turn up the reverb and is not afraid to use it. “Plastic Eternity” reveals the staying power of a band like Mudhoney, which isn’t afraid to have a good time and share it with their fans, even if the world around them is falling apart.

“Almost Everything” / “Move Under” / “Cry Me An Atmospheric River”

Dinosaur Jr. / Soundgarden / Hoodoo Gurus

Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge (30th Anniversary Deluxe Edition) (2021) / Vanishing Point (2013)

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Brian Q. Newcomb

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