ALBUMS: Mudhoney’s Exploding Plastic Inevitable

After 35 years, Seattle’s alt-rock legends still stand tall

Mudhoney 2023 (Image: Sub Pop)

“Everyone tells me it’s nice to have me back,” Mark Arm snarls in the opening track of Mudhoney’s latest opus, Plastic Eternity (Sub Pop).

And yes, it is nice to know that the alt-rock legends are still standing, thirty-five years after they first charmed the world with the gnarly classic that is “Touch Me I’m Sick.” Back then, they were young skinny kids, with a penchant for sending snarky letters to the editor denouncing their own bands. But over the years, taking their cue from the wondrous-wicked-woundup-wasted-wild-worried-wisedup-warmbodied world around them (to quote Stan Cornyn), they became social satirists — political commentators, if you will.

Mudhoney Plastic Eternity, Sub Pop 2023

Some of this is obvious by the album’s song titles: “Cascades of Crap,” “Flush the Fascists,” “Human Stock Capital.” True, familiar enough territory for indie rock, but no other band has quite the same level of sardonic humor as Mudhoney. “Here Comes the Flood,” for example, is a hysterical song about the joys of ivermectin — possibly the first rock song on the product? — that has Arm declaring “I’m a man/I’m a horse/I’m man enough to let nature run its course!” with all the fervor of the new convert. And “Plasticity” might not be more than just a list of the plastic items slowly crowding us out of the world on land and sea, but it’s still catchy as all get out.

Artist: Mudhoney 

Album: Plastic Eternity 

Label: Sub Pop

★★★★ (4/5 stars) 

The band’s the same fun loving crew of Arm on yowling vocals, Steve Turner, guitar, Guy Maddison, bass, and Dan Peters, drums. The music, as always, is tight and punchy, largely straight-ahead indie rock with forays into psychedelia (the hypnotic drone of “Almost Everything”), the existential musings of the surprisingly somber (musically) “One or Two,” and the spooky touch of vocoder dropped into the beginning of “Plasticity.” There’s a wild west vibe to the wonderfully titled “Severed Dreams in the Sleeper Cell,” the soundtrack to an independent movie that deserves to be made. And they’re in peak form on the scorching “Human Stock Capital,” which brilliantly encapsulates the corporate mindset towards their worker bees in a phrase that CEOs would be happy to adopt as a motto: “Essential means expendable.”

The climax comes with “Cry Me an Atmospheric River,” where nature exacts its revenge. The song’s protagonist is climate change itself, gleefully putting us in our place (“I am the weather, you are just human”) as the band roils away underneath. “Take credit for the part you played,” Arm observes cheerfully in his role as judge, jury, and executioner. “This is the world that you helped shape.” 


VIDEO: Mudhoney “Little Dogs”

It’s not a total doom fest. There’s “Tom Herman’s Hermits,” a worshipful song about the prowess of Pere Ubu guitarist Tom Herman. “I think about you all the time,” Arm sings like a schoolboy with a crush, earnestly assuring him “I will wait.” And the lads leave you with a smile in the closing number, “Little Dogs,” a nice, loping song about how much the band loves their tiny pipsqueaks. There’s a bit of a nursery rhyme cadence about it, with fun couplets like “They make me happy and I laugh when they howl/If you let ‘em outside at night, watch out for owls.”  

But in the end, Plastic Eternity spends most of its time conjuring up a depressing vision of the future. Still, if the ship’s inevitably going to go down, at least with Mudhoney on hand you’ll be able to enjoy the ride. 


VIDEO: Mudhoney “Almost Everything”


Gillian G. Gaar

 You May Also Like

Gillian G. Gaar

Seattle-based writer Gillian G. Gaar covers the arts, entertainment, and travel.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *