by Clint Burgess
Seattle's Mudhoney has weathered more than its share of musical storms over the years. Yet somehow the band has managed to come through it all gracefully -- a feat clearly beyond many of its flannel-clad brethren.
Since We've Become Translucent marks the return of Mudhoney to Sub Pop, the label where it all began. The band's eight-year sabbatical on Reprise ended curtly when the label finally realized that Mudhoney wasn't going to make them the millions they were hoping for when they signed the band during the post-Nirvana feeding frenzy. It also represents the first lineup change since the band's inception. Original bassist Matt Lukin decided to hang it up after the Reprise deal failed (citing a dislike of touring) and was replaced by Guy Maddison.
With old wounds at Sub Pop healed and egos on both sides still intact, Mudhoney -- with guitarists Mark Arm and Steve Turner and drummer Dan Peters rounding out the squad -- has fashioned a string of songs together that reek of the band's grubby, straight-forward rock sensibilities of old, while managing to add some new instrumentation to the mix. The album opens up with "Can You Dig the Light," a distortion-lavished sonic stroll through lush swells of guitar that features, of all things, a saxophone. Though Mudhoney continues to demonstrate a flare for confrontational rock (the blues influence is still there, as are the blissful feedback interludes), Since We've Become Translucent finds the band gleefully indulging in other styles. Don't panic, it's not a complete transformation, just enough to make you wonder, "Was that a glockenspiel?" The band's successful foray into the soothing sounds of seduction on "Where The Flavor Is" includes a full horn section.
Mark Arm's signature screeching vocals and a slew of typically autobiographical and delightfully metaphoric lyrics are the standouts of this collection. One memorable chorus from "In the Winner's Circle" climaxes with "Been rolled through the ringer/and spit out a winner/yeah I'm a winner cause I got nothin' left to lose." Cutting through the B.S. without pretense was always Arm's strong suit. And Since We've Become Translucent is his perfect forum. The recent power shift in the music business could mean a high return for a straight-up rock record of this caliber. If not, it's their loss -- and our gain.