Grunge, pop, and rock: these labels say surprisingly little about the bands playing this Friday at Reggies Rock Club. Mudhoney, an essential band of the 1990s Seattle grunge movement, has just released “The Lucky Ones,” a record that is consistent with the band’s history of incorporating different musical genres into their signature fuzzed-out sound. The catchy riffs of Chicago-based band the Fake Fictions aren’t pure pop, but contain echoes of punk and surf-rock as well. Hailing from Detroit, Easy Action brings a harsher sound, with roaring vocals and a distorted guitar layered over a heavy bass. This unique combination of music should amount to one heck of a show, one that is as much fun as it is frenzy.
Mudhoney has been releasing records and touring since 1988. Although the group was seen as part of the grunge movement, singer-guitarist Mark Arm explains, “We just thought of ourselves as a punk rock band in this late ‘80s sense, where the Butthole Surfers were a punk band, and Big Black was a punk band…” He added, “It wasn’t until the ‘90s that the term punk got narrowed again.” Resisting such labels allowed Mudhoney to expand their style; whether by supplementing their snarls with blues-rock riffs or having overtly political lyrics. Their repertoire has diversity, but retains a sound that is utterly recognizable. “I think each of us in the band has a totally unique stamp and together it’s very clear that it’s Mudhoney,” Arm reflected on the band’s two-decade development. “It doesn’t matter if we play a folksy tune or the heaviest, loudest thing you could imagine.”
Loud and energetic, “The Lucky Ones” will be appreciated by fans both old and new. Recorded “from the ground up,” it focuses largely on a bass-and-drum rhythm section, and puts the music before the lyrics. Drummer Dan Peters and the new bassist Guy Maddison create a tight foundation above which Steve Turner’s guitar alternately grinds and soars. The album is comparatively “leaner” than previous ones, partly because Arm didn’t play the guitar in order to improvise melodies and lyrics on top of the fundamental music. “Which is a little more embarrassing,” Arm admits. “I was standing around with a microphone, grunting… but no one was giving me any dirty looks or anything so we just kept going.” This new approach is successful: the final product is angry and addictive, as well as an interesting comparison to the band’s earliest work.
Lucky for new fans, Sub Pop recently released a remastered version of Mudhoney’s first EP, “Superfuzz Bigmuff,” now supplemented with singles, demos, and live recordings from the band’s early years. This Friday at Reggies, Mudhoney will perform songs from “The Lucky Ones,” as well as “Superfuzz Bigmuff.”
The Fake Fictions, comprised of singer-guitarist Nick Ammerman, singer-bassist Sarah Ammerman, and drummer Ben Billow, formed in Chicago in 2004. Their latest album, “Krakatoa” (which can be streamed in full on the band’s website), leans away from the sugarcoated pop they’ve been playing around Chicago over the past four years. Rather, it gains substance through an intentional highlighting of the recording process. Wanting to get back to the basics, and not unlike what Mudhoney aimed for on “The Lucky Ones,” the Fake Fictions explain that “Krakatoa” “is a tribute to our instruments themselves: the rough buzz of the bass, the treble shock of the guitar, and the hiss of the tape itself.” Named after a volcano-island in Indonesia, “Krakatoa” uses volcanic imagery more metaphorically than explicitly: the earth rumbles in the bass and drums, and lava streams in the guitar solos, rather than in the lyrics. The songs exhibit a happy discontinuous quality, like colorful bouquets of caffeine-riddled non-sequiturs. The band attributes this to the nature of their songwriting: “The words themselves are often chosen because we like the sounds of them.” Similar to Mudhoney’s organic development of lyrics on “The Lucky Ones,” the Fake Fictions maintain that “it is not uncommon for filler lyrics in practice to become the real ones. Sometimes the words just fall into place.”
Easy Action, a rock outfit formed in 1997, will open the evening. Devoted to creating music that makes the soul tremble, lead singer-guitarist John Brannon growls and shouts. Harold Richardson’s guitar is a relentless, driving sound, which is supported and tied down to earth by Tony Romeo’s steady bass and Matt Becker’s drumming. The spot-on rhythm section creates an oppressive tension with Brannon’s vocals. Like Mudhoney and The Fake Fictions, Easy Action is invested in creating music that defies categorization. Combined, these groups create a show that will push the limits, leaving you winded and wanting more.
Reggies Rock Club, 2109 S. State St. May 30. Friday, 8pm. $18 in advance, $20 at door. www.reggieslive.com