THEN: 1994 and Sub Pop was at the top of its game. Others such as Touch and Go, Blast First, Amphetamine Reptile, Cargo were all dishing out quality fayre, but it was the Seattle label that remained the go-to choice for hard-rocking anger and good times. So Sunny Day Real Estate's Diary caught a lot of people off-guard. Mostly it was singer Jeremy Enigk's voice, this guy sounded like he could actually sing - and it sounded like he was singing about intensly personal themes too, hence 'Diary' I suppose, this couldn't be right from the label who gave us Mudhoney, the band who sang about being drunk for 24 hours. Add to that the slightly creepy and childlike artwork of the record and it felt like Diary was a step in a new direction. Luckily, whilst making us think, it also rocked. Hard.
NOW: Little surprise that Dave Grohl called up rhythm section Nate Mendel (bass) and William Goldsmith (drums) when putting together his new project Foo Fighters in 1995, the drumming especially is awesome across the whole album. Take opener Seven for example: nearly five minutes of constant rolls and fills across a track that was a permanent fixture on many a mix-tape made around that period (to both guys and girls - evidence of the rocking and sensitive all-roundess of the group).
I hadn't listened to it for a while and seemed to remember the intensity level dropping off after Seven and In Circles, but no, the quality remains consistently high across all eleven songs. From the blistering Rounds and Shadows, surreal Grendel and Pheurton Skeurto and the epic 47 and 48. It's fair to argue that Diary was amongst the first Emo records, but don't confuse it with the cynical bullshit of today, there is far more intelligence to Diary than simply plastering on a bit of eyeliner. A classic of classics.
SUP POP SAYS: “Sunny Day’s key members have seemingly engaged in just about every rock cliché imaginable.”
KILLER TRACK: SevenRead more 4.5 star reviews
The Lucky Ones
20 years after the release of their first record - Superfuzz Bigmuff - Mudhoney return with their eighth, but you’d have to listen very closely to find any obvious signs of maturing in that two decade period. Ditching the brass section flourishes of 2006’s Under A Billion Suns, the Lucky Ones is Mudhoney doing what Mudhoney do best – no-messing, fuzzed up punk, topped with the odd killer riff and Mark Arm’s sneeringly laid-back vocal.
Nice and compact at eleven songs averaging about 3 minutes each, it doesn’t hang about, sounding like it was recorded in about three and a half days…which incidentally, it was. The band hit the groove early on and ended up recording the record in record time. Which is great news for old fans, recently reminded of Mudhoney’s particular brand of wayward genius thanks to the re-release of Superfuzz Bigmuff. Opening track “I’m Now” may try and position the band: “The past makes no sense, The future looks tense. I’m Now!” but the energy, chaos and unmistakable sound that marked their 1990 debut, is all over “The Lucky Ones” (with slightly slicker production perhaps).
Whilst some may argue that this makes the album dated on release, others would say ‘Who gives a shit?’ leave the boundary breaking to the kids. Back in the day, Mudhoney somehow stumbled across new musical territory. It seemed like a lot of fun then – and it still does.Read more 3 star reviews
Drums And Guns
Things We Lost In The Fire was an exquisite piece of work that managed to wrap you in its melancholy, taking you deeper into its hopeless warmth and only allowing you up for air to keep you alive. 2005's The Great Destroyer saw the band take a whiplash turn of direction as they showed us that all this brooding and threatening that we had persevered with was about to pay off. They flexed their muscles and the result was awesome. So where to after this turn? The Great Destroyer was such a bold move for a band with such a distinctive back catalogue that there was no going back from it. Drums And Guns unfortunately shows Low trying to.
This starts off very slow indeed, but through Belarus Low manage to maintain a certain tension, or air of expectation. It ticks over nicely, but in classic Low style goes nowhere - and leaves you wanting more. This is to their credit, as in the past they have expertly held your attention through miles of empty, lonely terrain but as Breaker creeps in with it's subtle electronic tip toes and itself goes nowhere you start to wonder whether you have the patience for another long and desolate journey. This seems like an album of sketches, rather than finished ideas. Few of the songs have any kind of resolution and when they do, as in Your Poison, they tail off after barely a minute - while Hatchet is entirely based around a very questionable concept of "Let's bury the hatchet like The Beatles and The Stones."
The glimmers of light throughout this record are the introduction of a more electronic sound. It gives the vast sonic landscapes some definition. Always Fade has an organic, sampled beat that mirrors the muddy textures they used to create with the guitar and Breaker adopts a totally different minimal sound that supports the vocals very well.
This is by no means a bad album, but for a band from whom we expect greatness it is disappointing. They seem to be reconsidering their brave move, but finding that it took them so far away from their original position they are struggling to get back. Since I first heard this band I have been so impressed with their confidence and conviction. They were always a band that knew exactly what they were doing and when playing live they displayed a command of their audience that throughout their marathon, barren performances you could have heard a pin drop. This conviction seems to have dwindled slightly here and I can't fight the feeling of restlessness that creeps in during this record. I am in no way suggesting that I'm getting off the Low Train, but I might read my book for a while until the view changes.