Mudhoney: Points of Departure
No band is an island. The best songwriters tend to be sponge-like soaker-uppers of music, film, fine art, literature and other forms of culture, be they popular or obscure, and these influences often find their way into the music, helping listeners branch out and develop new interests. With Points of Departure, we use our favorite groups as springboards for broader cultural investigations and highlight some of the cool things you might get into via your record collection. This week: Mudhoney.
When Mudhoney formed in 1988 and named themselves after a 1965 film directed by infamous sexploitation guru Russ Meyer, they squeaked open a door on American trash cinema like no band had done before. Once they threw a snippet of a monologue Peter Fonda gave in the obscure Roger Corman biker film ‘The Wild Angels’ at the beginning of ‘In ‘N’ Out of Grace,’ the closing track on their debut 12-inch EP ‘Superfuzz Bigmuff,’ throngs of proto-hipsters ran to the video store to check out the tackiest movies America had to offer from the '60s and '70s.
One earful of Mudhoney told you they were well schooled in the heavy, dangerous music that predated punk, such as the Stooges, MC5 and Blue Cheer. But the music that drove them to pick up their instruments was early-'80s American hardcore. Mudhoney guitarists Mark Arm and Steve Turner were originally in goofy Seattle-area hardcore bands with names like Mr. Epp and the Calculations and the Limp Richerds. Mudhoney's hardcore roots are especially evident on the second disc of the 2000 ‘March to Fuzz’ collection, where the band covers hardcore heavies like Black Flag, the Adolescents, Fang, the Angry Samoans and Michigan's wonderfully named Crucif---s.
When word got around sometime in the early '90s that Mudhoney were going into the studio with country music legend Jimmie Dale Gilmore, some thought it was a joke. But when the band and Gilmore stepped out with an EP's worth of material consisting of Mudhoney originals, some Gilmore’s songs and a tune written by the legendary Townes Van Zandt, many grungers started combing the used record bins for releases by the likes of Gilmore, Zandt, Mickey Newbury and many other outlaw country types.