Mudhoney Cameron OmnibusMudhoney: The Sound and the Fury from Seattle by Keith Cameron

(Omnibus Press, Updated Edition 2022)

Out now!

This is the story of Mudhoney as the heart and soul of Seattle.

An updated edition of Keith Cameron’s Mudhoney book? Yes, please! When I saw that Omnibus Press would be publishing The Sound and the Fury from Seattle with a new chapter about the band’s life and work after 2013, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. The new material doesn’t disappoint and revisiting Cameron’s book makes for a smashing read. I’m so excited that the updated edition will introduce new readers to Mudhoney and, maybe, usher some new fans to some truly phenomenal music. I’m with Nick Cave: “What a great fucking band.” And Cameron’s book perfectly spotlights Mudhoney as the centrepiece of the Seattle sound.

What happens when you frame the city’s musical rise to fame in the 80s and 90s with Mudhoney? You get an incomparable narrative of a band around which all other chronicles of grunge arise. Indeed, knowledge of Nirvana, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Screaming Trees, and Mother Love Bone shifts when Mudhoney is the linchpin of the story. Consider, for example: What if the tale of Soundgarden’s rise to fame starts with the band opening for Mudhoney? How about if the account of Dave Grohl joining Nirvana begins with Mudhoney’s Dan Peters drumming with the band and being unwittingly replaced after a magazine photoshoot at Krist Novoselic’s house? What if Screaming Trees worked with Jack Endino on their album Buzz Factory because they wanted to get a sound like Mudhoney’s? And how does a distinct mythology of Sub Pop materialise when Mudhoney is the face of the label? By placing Mudhoney at the centre of the narrative, Cameron illustrates how the stories all shift just a bit and a new history emerges.

Mark Arm’s description of climbing onto the platform at the top of the space needle, where Mudhoney performed in 2013, highlights how perspectives can shift based on where you’re standing: “I made the mistake of hugging the centre wall of it . . . . From that perspective, you just see the edge, and then it drops off. If you go to the edge where the railing is, there’s a sloped roof that goes on for quite a bit. So that gives you this false sense of security. But if you’re just standing in the middle, and you don’t see that sloped roof . . .”

Cameron ultimately reveals how Mudhoney is, in many ways, a great paradox: it’s impossible to think about music in Seattle without the band, yet somehow they’re still a little underground. Perhaps it’s that delightful subterranean quality of Mudhoney that led residents of the city to bestow the name “MudHoney” on the “big tunnel-boring machine” that’s tasked with digging a tunnel 2.7 miles long to save the city from environmental disaster of sorts. In announcing the name in 2021, Seattle Public Utilities declared, “Since the late eighties, Mudhoney, the Seattle-based foursome whose muck-crusted version of rock, shot through with caustic wit and battened down by a ferocious low end, has taken a stand against overflows into our waterways.”

Long before Mudhoney became a household name in Seattle, members of the band were involved in a variety of musical pursuits that now make for great stories. I love imagining the image of Bruce Pavitt and Jonathan Poneman of Sub Pop, at the New Music Seminar in New York City in 1988, selling Green River T-shirts designed by Jeff Ament with the text “Ride The Fucking Six Pack.” Then there’s Sub Pop dealing with massive delays of Mudhoney’s debut single Touch Me I’m Sick “in order to accommodate a special brown vinyl pressing” that ended up lining the windows of the Hoboken record store Pier Platters. Or those tales of the Wylde Ratttz — the supergroup of Mark Arm, Ron Asheton, Thurston Moore, Steve Shelley, Don Fleming, Mike Watt, and Jim Dunbar that came together to record songs for Todd Haynes’s film Velvet Goldmine. (By the way, those Wylde Ratttz improv sessions were released as a digital album in 2020.) And speaking of movies, how about Mudhoney’s obvious significance to Cameron Crowe’s 1992 movie Singles? The film’s fictional band Citizen Dick, largely made up of members of Pearl Jam, have a hit single entitled Touch Me I’m Dick, which of course “bore more than a passing resemblance to a similarly titled Mudhoney song.”

The book is largely chronological, starting with the story of Mark Arm and moving forward from there. As each band member gets introduced, Cameron goes back in time to give the reader an origin story that begins in some part of the Pacific Northwest. The present occasionally creeps in as Mark, Dan Peters, Steve Turner, and others reflect on changes to the Seattle landscape over the years. Yet in large part, the book recounts the band’s oscillations over nearly thirty-five years of making music together.

Freshly added material for the 2022 updated edition includes a new chapter at the end of the book and current photos of the band. For instance, there’s a picture of the members of Mudhoney in front of MudHoney (that tunnel-boring machine), “resplendent in matching cycling tops . . . emblazoned with ‘SolidBrown’ in a homage to the logo of 1980s Polish trade union Solidarity.” The new chapter also addresses the band’s recent politically tinged output, including the 2018 album Digital Garbage and 2019’s Morning in America. As Cameron writes, “[t]ogether, Digital Garbage and Morning In America offered a scathing eco-political health check while retaining all the elements one could want from Mudhoney: rowdy riffs, heroic yowl, frequent outbreaks of bad taste.” Then, of course, came the devastation of the pandemic. But Mudhoney is back, and there’s more music to come. Indeed, “[b]y the time you read these words, Mudhoney will have made their next album, recorded during an eight-day stretch in November 2021.”

You can’t tell the story of Seattle without Mudhoney, and Cameron reminds us that the story is still being made.

You can order Mudhoney: The Sound and the Fury from Seattle directly from Omnibus Press, or you can pick up the new edition of the book from your favourite local shop.

Find Keith Cameron on Twitter and learn more about his writing on his website. And of course, follow Mudhoney on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

~

Words by Audrey J. Golden. You can follow Audrey on Twitter and Instagram, and you can check out her personal website to learn more about her writing.

Previous articleMusicians! need funding? then check this out…The FAC have set up a fund
Next articleAs The Cro Cro Flies: Retro Bar – live review
Audrey is an arts and culture writer based in New York. She loves punk, post-punk, and any synth-heavy sounds, and she's a DJ on Louder Than War Radio.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here