Nirvana might have put a hammerlock on the word grunge for the coming aeons of posterity, but to my mind the question “What is the quintessential grunge band?” has a much better answer, and that’s Mudhoney.
Mudhoney achieved significant notoriety, both in the U.S. and abroad, before Nirvana did. They were the band around which the Seattle scene coalesced more than any other. Mudhoney was born out of the ashes of Green River, which had been active since 1985, and their single “Touch Me I’m Sick” was the defining grunge song until Nirvana came along with “Smells Like Teen Spirit” in late 1991.
Mudhoney drew inspiration from (at the time) under-heralded heroes such as Roky Erickson and Billy Childish in establishing their raucous, sloppy, heavy, fuzzy sound. I used to joke that Mark Arm was the one frontman out there where most fans singing along on their own could nail the correct key with the same approximate frequency, but the fact is, Arm was and is one of the greatest pure howlers rock and roll has ever seen.
Plus, Mudhoney had one of the best band names ever, which almost everyone reading this knows derived from a Russ Meyer movie from 1965.
An homage to the Slits on the “Burn it Clean” single
In July 1989 they were in New York for the New Music Seminar and played a short set at the Ritz, in the same premises that had once been Studio 54. The visual quality of this video is OK, but it sounds fucking fantastic. Just as hard-hitting as anything in their studio catalog. I didn’t catch Mudhoney on this occasion but I did see them a year later in Vienna for what would end up being (by far) the sweatiest and most cathartic show I’d ever attended up to that point.
Magnolia Caboose Babyshit
No One Has
Sweet Young Thing (Ain’t Sweet No More)
If I Think
Here Comes Sickness
Come to Mind
Touch Me I’m Sick
In ‘N’ Out of Grace
“Touch Me I’m Sick” is at 20:15 if you positively have to jump to “the big hit.”