Morning in America
Sub Pop

Morning in America is comprised of left-overs from their last album, Digital Garbage.  The thing is, these seven tracks are killer and could’ve easily fit on that album.  In fact, some of these tracks are even better.  ‘Morning in America’ was Ronald Reagan’s slogan back in 1984.  Mudhoney are veterans of the Reagan Era, bursting onto the scene in 1988, though even by then they were Seattle legends, most of them having served in the  legendary Green River.

The men of Mudhoney are all in their mid-50s now, and they seem more pissed off than ever.  They never really were a politcal band, mostly Mark Arm screamed and ranted and raved about everything but politics as the frontman of the greatest of all the Seattle bands.  And well, now in middle-aged, it’s impossible to divorce Mudhoney from politics.  Morning in America makes this very clear.

The very statement with the title is obvious, especially given Hillary Clinton’s 2016 quip that Trump was turning us to ‘midnight in America.’  And the music backs this up.  ‘Vortex of Lies,’ while it never actually names Trump and his cronies, makes it very clear what Arm is screaming about.  ‘Creeps Are Everywhere’ follows the same vein, essentially calling out the Trumpites as the creeps.

We get a nice break ‘Ensam I Natt’, which sees Arm worried about loneliness and zombies.  This sounds more like vintage Mudhoney.  In a lot of ways, they were the clown pissed off princes of the Seattle scene, never taking themselves too seriously, willing to call out the excesses and stupidity of the scene (remember ‘Overblown’ from the Singles soundtrack?).  But, of course, desperate times call for desperate measures.

And ‘Morning in America’ follows with Arm sneering

America hates itself
America thinks its someplace else
America rolls out of bed and looks in the mirror
And can’t believe what is sees
Wraps up in the flag for cover

America goes on to wonder ‘how could this be me’ looking in the mirror, wondering why it’s so ugly and what it has become.  America, in other words, has woken up after a bender with a bitch of a hangover and full of regrets.  Oddly, what strikes me the most in listening to this song is how it in so many ways draws on the music of the late 60s, the protest songs.  I never thought I would ever type these words together: ‘Mudhoney’ and ‘protest music.’

‘Let’s Kill Yourself Live Again,’ is a sort of rehash of ‘Kill Yourself Live’ on Digital Garbage.  Arm’s still critiquing our addictions to social media.  But now he is recommending that, though we have already killed ourself on live stream, that we do it again to boost ratings and to give the people what they want.  Amongst the ways of killing oneself live, Arm recommends  many, including being run over by a driverless car.  Ultimately, of course, we are immortal, we live on in digital garbage.

‘Snake Oil Charmer’ seems kind of obvious no?  And we finish with ‘One Bad Actor’ hearkens back to Ronald Reagan, of course, but it is directed at Trump:

Well I’ve lost the plot
And I’m gonna wing it
One bad actor versus the rest of the world
My middle finger is on the button
Itching to deliver the final concussion
Think of me when you’ve become nothing

You’ll notice I haven’t discussed the music.  Well, either you get it or you don’t.  Mudhoney aren’t a complex band musically, thank god.  They play rock’n’roll. Their first ep in 1988 was called Superfuzz/Big Muff, after the favourite guitar effects pedals of Arm and lead guitarist Steve Turner.  So, yeah, they play distorted guitar over the buzz and crash of bassist Guy Maddison and drummer Dan Peters.  Nothing really has changed since Superfuzz/Big Muff, and that’s the genius of this band.  They’ve aged, but they still play the same.  There’s still a fury in their music.  Arm actually sounds better now than he did then, I’m guessing it’s due to a commitment to clean living.  I used to see him at gigs in Vancouver and Seattle back in the day, he did not look well.  He looks better today than he did then, too.
I find it comforting that a bunch of ageing scuzzballs from Seattle can still plug in their guitars and play good old fashioned rock’n’roll and kick us in the head.  I am particularly happy that Arm has something to say these days.