Superfuzz Bigmuff

Released: 18th October 1988
Label: Sub Pop Records

As a teenager in the early 90’s I was lucky to come of age at a time when alternative music forced it’s way into mainstream culture, shaping my own thoughts of what is acceptable, how things should and shouldn’t be done and provide a blueprint and reference point to evaluate music from that time onwards.

I had stumbled onto this path by being turned onto R.E.M.’s 'Green' by a school friend, their first album on a major label. This led to unearthing the treasures of their extensive back catalogue, mysterious and all mine until 'Out of Time' broke open the treasure chest.

However, this served as a warm up to my personal experience of punk. Bands like Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr, Screaming Trees, Tad, Mudhoney and Nirvana exploded both commercially and internally with my own personal revolution. 

Nirvana and Pearl Jam, both special in their own way, were picked out as the two main players in the scene, but it was Mudhoney lurking in the background, influential and pioneering that became ‘my band’.

I started listening to their eponymous album and 'Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge' and found a band that became a soundtrack to my life. They were contemporary but also seemed to be paying homage to the greats that came before them; the Stooges, MC5, Black Flag. Garage rock that could have been released in 1969 or 1977. Their music balances self destruction with the darkest comedy in equal measure. Mark Arm’s voice emanates cool blues desperation the morning after the night before.

I could have picked out any of their Sub Pop albums but 'Superfuzz Bigmuff' got the nod because every song either on the original release or the 32 song 2008 re-release encapsulates all of the band’s greatest qualities. It starts with 'Touch Me I’m Sick' kicking off with distorted guitar, an "ooh" and "waaaaaaahhhh", containing self depreciating lyrics of which Iggy would be proud. 'Sweet Young Thing' follows telling the story of a young girl, a prom queen perhaps? submitting to the temptations of alcohol, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll to her parent’s horror. 'Hate the Police' and 'Burn it Clean' keep the momentum going. 'You Got It' with it’s machine gun drums and it’s scuzzy guitar has Arm’s screeching vocals seeming to tell the story of a pretty girl too ready to offer her body to others: ”you give it away like a free sample but I don’t want what anyone one can have"... Arm is too righteous to take advantage.

The album’s real highlights come near the end. Need requests “give me love laced with lies.” Relationships here are destructive and unhealthy. 'In ‘n’ Out of Grace' is no less than an anthem, timeless, angry, no less than holy. Opening with the lyrics “Jesus take me to a higher place, sliding in and out of grace” it talks of satisfying spiritual need with cheap sexual thrill. The closer 'Mudride' is the best thing here, threatening, more than that, it’s over baby. The message is that if you hook up with Arm, if you fall under the spell then you’re truly fucked. Whether it be the subject of the song or the listener, the fate’s the same “got a trip for two on a one way ride". I’m going by this point, after being distortion pedalled to death I can’t stop it. The song builds and builds, the conclusion isn’t pretty “watch your world collapse as our worlds collide.”

If my words haven’t convinced you to listen then just observe the album cover, Steve Turner and Mark Arm, mid-rock out, fuzz-gun style. It could have been 1888 or 2088 or 1988, it’s still cool and representing all that is great about freedom and rebellion.

These songs demand you to take leave of your senses, take pride in your mistakes, no regrets or wallowing, do what feels right and then do it some more. This is my Elvis, my Stooges, my Who, my Doors, my Stones, my Pistols. 

Mike W

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