Mudhoney - Northumbria University, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne - Gigs - Reviews - Soundblab

Mudhoney - Northumbria University, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne

by Mark Hammond Rating: Release Date:

Dean Whitmore is the axis around which The Unnatural Helpers spin. He is the focal point on stage behind his spartan drumkit, singing gruffly about all sorts of misanthropic situations that the archetypal cool-loser finds himself in. The Helpers are tiger-by-the-tail garage rock which arrives, not so much with an urgency, but rather the critical rush of trauma to the head that a well cast paving slab would provide. Each song in the set is economic with time, clocking in at no longer than two minutes a-piece. In a rare hint towards interstitial banter, Whitmore is interrupted by his deputising lead guitarist who convoys another brutal, minimalist riff into the room atop the joshing. They need to get on with it, it seems and get on with it they do. It feels like 20 songs have been sardined into the half hour slot and by the time The Helpers slink off stage the crowd are suitably warmed up and baying for Mudhoney.

I saunter up to the front and carefully set up camp. I'm quite settled by the time Mark Arm et al appear on stage and for a split second I am convinced that I will be enjoying the band from satisfyingly close proximity. After 20 seconds of 'Into the Drink', I am quilted in overpriced lager and I'm being pinballed around by some rather large men who I wager have spent a fair amount of their respective lifetimes eating their greens. At Northumbria Uni, Mudhoney sound eight times the size they do on record. I repair to the PA trying to conceal the horror that I feel having been sandwiched between burly townies, feral punks and savage bastards in general, to watch from a safe distance. The silhouettes of matted afros, muscular craniums and flailing tendrils warp to the paradoxical backdrop of the cooler-than-the-other-side-of-the-pillow Arm, who holds his Gretsch with measured abandon.

It's hard to reconcile his composure with the shitstorm that lashes around to the beat of darkly-comical 'Touch Me I'm Sick.' The onslaught continues with 'In N Out of Grace' and 'Suck You Dry' until Arm hands his Hagstrom guitar to a tech and proceeds with more recent material. 'The Lucky Ones' credits Steve Turner only on guitar and for songs such as 'The Open Mind' Arm puts the studied cool into storage and unleashes a rabid Iggy Pop-meets-Henry Rollins mongrel who seems to have rolled in from Backfuck, Seattle with a violent and unmistakable howl. Arm's voice, which often goes overlooked, steers confidently between droll swagger (as on 'Next Time I Get Next to You') and unbridled fury. On 'Tales of Terror' and 'Hate the Police,' he caterwauls, wide-eyed like a Shaman trapped in a supernatural realm who wants nothing more than to return to Earth to catch Derek Acorah on Living, which he's forgotten to Sky Plus. That he manages to surmount the ear-splitting mortar bomb that is the band is testament to the power of his roar.

Once the band bid us farewell, I stand amongst the bulldozed site, my head ringing and my jacket smelling like Mel Gibson. Most of Mudhoney's coevals went on to make a fortune from their particular interpretation of punk rock, but I sincerely doubt any could justify its vitality in 2010 in such devastating fashion.
Photo: Gordon Armstrong

Comments (1)

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Without wanting to sound like your Dad, Mark, you should have seen them back in the day. I saw them in 1989 and it was mental.

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