Posts Tagged ‘Mudhoney’

Human Worth – 19th June 2023

Christopher Nosnibor

I’d love to avoid tedious repetition but it’s hard to review yet another Human Worth release without mentioning just how fucking great this label is, because the name means what it says – it’s a label of rare integrity, which always donates a percentage of proceeds to charitable causes, more often than not one local to the artist, and for this release by ‘shape shifting south London noise rock outfit Thee Alcoholics’, 10% of proceeds from this record will be donated to the south London based charity The Lewisham Primary Care Recovery Service.

They’re also outstanding with their radar for quality noise, and Thee Alcoholics sit comfortably on the label’s roster, delivering ‘songs that rail against injustice, intolerance and institutionalised Great British apathy – neatly wrapped around screeching, trash guitar riffs and blast beat driven bass synths. Mixing the gnarly, outsider big muff energy of early Tad and Mudhoney with the industrial crush repetition of Godflesh. Ugly vocals are buried somewhere between the Brainbombs and Girls Against Boys.’

Could it get any better? Well, actually, yes! The EP’s artwork, by Tony Mountford, tips a hat to Therapy?’s live 7inch ‘Opal Mantra’, while the recording itself is pitched as ‘a document of the journey so far – 30 minutes of agro [sic] drunk rock n roll. In the red sizzle of a load of broken equipment. The band barely holding it together in their chaotic element.’ Oh, and it’s mastered by Jon Hamilton of Part Chimp.

Human Worth may be a young label, but the sense of musical history and heritage that informs their choices is remarkable, and all of the references trace a solid lineage to the early 90s – and it’s hard to overstate just how exciting those short few years were. Because as much as it was about Nirvana and Pearl Jam and Soundgarden and Rage Against the Machine breaking the mainstream, it was about a current of alternative guitar-based music which occupied John Peel’s playlists and infinite column inches in Melody Maker (if not so much the NME). And the live ‘Opal Mantra’ EP is absolutely fucking blinder and makes for an admirable reference point, packing as it does raw and ripping renditions of ‘Innocent X’ and ‘Potato Junkie’ alongside one of the best non-album tracks ever. That a band could chuck a song like that out in such a fashion was a revelation at the time and it’s interesting to see all of these references come together here.

For me, Tad was always way more the quintessence of grunge than, say, Pearl Jam, the gritty, sweaty metal heft of songs about farming and manual labour really getting to grips with the reason the Seattle scene emerged representing the blue-collar – or perhaps more accurately the plaid-collar demographic who needed to vent after several hours of slog and grind. And Thee Alcoholics really capture that mood, often at a frantic pace that suggests a strong influence from mid- to late-eighties hardcore melded with nineties noise and grunge.

Live recordings can be difficult: too crisp and clean and so polished and overdubbed it doesn’t sound live, or otherwise just dingy and shit; this one is great because it’s not dingy and shit, but isn’t exactly ‘produced’ either: it’s dense and you can hear the audience – sometimes shouting to one another during the songs, because they’re tossers – and it all makes for a document that’s perhaps flawed to some ears, but is, as a document, absolutely perfect because you really do feel like you’re there.

Live At The Piper features live renditions of songs from their debut album released on cassette, and seven-inch releases, and it’s warts-and-all in the vein of The Fall’s Totale’s Turns – and it needs to be: it’s a proper live document rather than some polished-up, super-dubbed-up, hyper-clean fictionalised reimagination of events, as they power through eight songs in twenty-four minutes.

‘A Ghetto Thing’ is two minutes of throbbing, thrashing fury, rushing its way to the safety of a pub car park in blitzkrieg of noise, while ‘Turn on the Radio’ is built around a driving riff which switches up a key for the chorus; the vocals are half buried and the drums dominate everything and it’s all over in less than two minutes, which is time enough to do the job of grabbing you by the throat and kneeing you in the nuts several times. It’s a hell of a racket, but amidst the frenetic crashing of cymbals and general murk is a song that’s strong enough to lodge in your brain, and it’s rare for bands this noisy, this messy, to incorporate ‘catchy’ elements, favouring instead sheer force and sonic impact – which they do elsewhere, not least of all with the high-impact forty-one second detonation that is ‘Sweetheart’. Then again. ‘She’s the Man’ is built around a nagging locked-in industrial groove, but it’s also scuzzy as hell, and it’s not hard to see where the Godflesh and Girls Against Boys references come in, and it’s arguably the strongest song on the set, a low-sling grinding wheeze emerging from shards of feedback.

Six-and-a-half-minute set closer ‘Politicians’ is low, slow, and grimy – which is extremely fitting, really, and the booming, sludgy bass is just magnificent.

As with the B E L K release, Human Worth have adhered with the old hardcore ethic of releasing a band in its rawest, most unadulterated form, and it works because it preserves the energy and integrity of the moment. It ain’t pretty, but it’s real.



Cruel Nature Recordings – 27th August 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Grunge isn’t dead. Not by a long way. Although, the trouble with grunge is that even at its height, most of the bands weren’t that impressive, and the ones who were achieved the widest success were the weakest, most accessible of the crop. Without the polished and ultimately marketable Nevermind, Nirvana would have never achieved global domination, although both Bleach and In Utero were, and remain, far superior albums, while the like of Tad and Mudhoney are the true sound of grunge, and capture the gritty, sweaty toil of blue collar labour channelled into aural catharsis. These bands never set out to change the world, but to vent their frustrations and ultimately their sense of powerlessness through music.

Perhaps it’s an age thing, but being in sixth form when grunge exploded it felt like not only an exciting time for music, but that this was a wave of music that actually spoke both to and for my generation at the time. In a way I feel rather sorry for the Millennials and Gen Z; the blandness of contemporary music speaks of nothing but surface. Even when addressing genuine issues, there feels like not only an absence of depth, but an absence of real emotion, of soul. Perhaps it’s just that the mainstream industry, represented by the mainstream charts, dominated by mainstream artists on major labels is simply giving the entirety of its focus on monetising slick sonic wallpaper. It seems odd that generations so riven with pain and angst (and who can blame them?) should find solace in this kind of anodyne slop. It can’t just be the numbing effects of antidepressants: something is clearly awry. Small wonder, then, that some delve into their parents’ collections in order to find music that contains what’s missing for them.

New York’s Cronies formed in June 2020 by brothers Jack and Sam Carillo, the press pitch describes the project as ‘the creative offspring of Covid and isolation’. Creative is the word: having pulled in a couple of mates to render this a full band, they’ve already banged out a brace of Eps in the last year ahead of this, their eponymous debut, which Cruel Nature are releasing on another Bandcamp Friday, with Proceeds going to charity.

It’s a bowel-shaking bass note that strikes first, and the sustain is something. And then in lurches a grimy guitar that’s welded to a stumbling rhythm section – and it’s heavy. Then the drawling vocal rips into a fill-throated roar that’s pure Cobain. These guys have taken the relentless battery of Bleach and the nihilistic squall of In Utero as their template, with a dash of thrash and some of the grimy heft of Tad in the mix (‘Slush Fund’ even leans on the riff from Tad’s ‘Behemoth’ but chicks in some stun synths and some manic hollering that’s more reminiscent of The Jesus Lizard), and ‘A Slippery Slope’ throws all of these in at once, along with a sudden change of pace and direction two-thirds of the way in. On ‘Ritchie from Lebanon’ they build a massively dense bulk of noise, the guitars and bass churning, overloading at great volume.

What Cronies have that their peers lack – well, there are many things, if we’re analysing (and of course we are: that’s the purpose of music criticism). But first and foremost, it’s raw passion and energy. There’s nothing slick or ultra-processed about this: Cronies are unashamedly ragged, and really embrace the grunge ethic of the time when most of the bands from Nirvana to Mudhoney were still on labels like Sub Pop. It’s perhaps because of the band’s origins – confined, trapped – that the songs on Cronies teem and seethe with abject frustration. Sometimes, words simply cannot articulate those feelings, and all there is to do is scream and unleash howls of feedback instead of neat chords. And this is what Cronies do, and this is why they speak to us: it’s accepting the limitations of articulation and unleashing a primal howl. It’s powerful because it’s real.