Here Comes Sickness—Again 

Seeing Seattle’s long-time underdogs in a new light

Would I, a suburban white kid now in the twilight of my 20s, gladly trade my hard-won senescence if I could just hear “Touch Me I’m Sick” again for the first time? Hell yes! It was the belch heard round the world! It was the start of the revolution! An unceremonious Schmidt braaap on top of room noise and the lurking buzz of someone’s amp, followed by the most impossibly rude fart of a guitar riff, like, ever. I celebrated by punching my fist skyward and stage-diving off the coffee table. “Dude! Listen to this!” “Wow, cool,” said my white suburban friends. “Can we put Dr. Feelgood back on now?”

The tidings that Mudhoney broke up—or at least hung it up indefinitely following the departure of bassist Matt Lukin last summer—made me feel bad in the same way that you feel bad when you’ve been unconsciously neglecting an old friend or a doddering great aunt and then they go and do something like die. It took me a couple of months, but I eventually embarked on a three-week Mudhoney bender that brought me back in touch with the same teeth-gnashing fervor I felt 11 or so years ago. It was a sentimental journey, thinking about everything and everyone that’s come and gone since then. Like the Cold War. Like the woman who bought me the record. Getting to all those forgotten corners of ye olde record collection brought plenty of other oddments to light, too, but once I got all the imports and bootlegs and obscure Canadian compilations in one place, they made a gratifyingly large heap. “Hey,” I thought, “As long as I’ve got everything in one place and this blank 90-minute tape I just bought...” Turns out I didn’t have to.

If I were going to make my own unofficial Mudhoney compilation, it would have come out a lot like the two-disc March to Fuzz, but the cagey folks at Sub Pop spared me the effort. The first disc is a “Best of...” and most of the material included therein has never and probably will never go out of print. The second is a “Rarities” disc that compiles b-sides, rare covers, compilation tracks and other unreleased odds and ends. Start to finish, both discs make for solid entertainment. The only thing I would have done differently was pretend 1993’s tanker Five Dollar Bob’s Mock Cooter Stew never happened and substitute some or all of the Peel Sessions, which originally came out as a four-song Japanese bootleg that cost me an arm and a leg to get but was worth every damned cent. Ever willing to take (or make) a joke at their own expense, former members/retrospective compilers Steve Turner and Mark Arm include one of the better Five Dollar Bob songs. All the tracks are wryly annotated by Turner and Arm, and a nice little booklet with rare photos rounds out the whimsical Edwin J. Fotheringham packaging.

Disc one offers a nice cross-section of the Mudhoney A-list, opening up with the no-fail The Wild Angels sample that leads into “In ‘n’ Out of Grace” (from 1988’s Superfuzz Bigmuff) and finishing up with “Hate the Police,” a dog-eared Dicks cover from an impossible-to-find Away from the Pulsebeat magazine compilation. But disc two is where the real beef is: a rare cut from the AmRep Dope, Guns and Fucking comp series, the awesome b-side tracks from the This Gift 12-inch, soundtrack work, stuff that only came out on CD singles, and killer covers of Fang, Black Flag, the Adolescents, VOID, the Damned—even Elvis Costello. All with a heap of fuzz and Arm’s trademark yowling vocals. Almost everything in this collection has aged with exceptional grace, and oh so many of these dusty diamonds sound fresher than they did even at the time. “Paperback Life,” which I always thought was a cover of ? and the Mysterians, sounds as good as they day it came out, ditto “If I Think,” “This Gift,” and “You Got It” (the LP version, not the eight-track prototype included on the singles import Boiled Beef and Rotting Teeth, which would have been an erudite substitution to make. Oh well, so there’s something else I would have done differently). Let’s do the time warp again. From a rock standpoint, Missoula in the early ’90s was kind of a cultural suzerainty of Seattle. Even before Nirvana broke the scene wide open with Nevermind, Bleach was already fused to the turntable of many an honest local rocker. The eponymous Mudhoney long player perhaps even more so. We fiended for this stuff. Bought any record we could get our hands on with blurry Charles Peterson photos and the Sub Pop imprint. Prayed for these bands to come here, to the point where we even got excited about the stuff that Sub Pop soft-pedaled but could at least put out in quantity on the strength of the label name alone: Skin Yard. Even Love Battery. Looking back now, it seems like an awfully long time ago.

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