Review: Mudhoney & The Vaselines, 9 October 2009

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Heritage rock, once the preserve of grey-haired bands from the sixties and seventies, is now deep within the "alternative indie" music of two decades ago. Spurred on by the modern day success of the Don't Look Back brand ethos as well as festivals such as All Tomorrow's Parties offering quick reunion fixes, the everlasting present of rock music has now reached the early nineties rock scene, giving us the bizarre sight of Pixies in 2009 touring their classic Doolittle album twenty years on.

Mudhoney, to their credit, never really went away. One of the first signings to Seattle's Sub Pop label, round about the same time a fledgling lesser-known Nirvana also started doing the rounds; Mudhoney lit the touch paper on the grunge explosion before meandering off into more workmanlike directions.

This ultra rare Edinburgh date is part of a small tour backing vinyl reissues of their first two LPs, Superfuzz Bigmuff and Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge. Seems like another evenings worth of nostalgia on offer, a feeling compounded by the eager, capacity Picture House crowd turning the venue into an Edinburgh Students' Union 1991 reunion party. Swathed in check shirts and plaid, the grunge generation are looking slightly heavier and worn.

Support band The Vaselines maintain the Cobain-friendly vibe. The Bellshill five-piece are best known for having their single "Son of A Gun" covered on Nirvana's Insecticide album. Eugene Kelly and Frances McKee have the air of reticent librarians on their night off, but they have a comfortable rapport with the audience which belies the sugar-coated ferocity of The Vaselines three-guitar sound.

When Mudhoney take the stage not long after, they sound surprisingly weak. Frontman Mark Arm pulls all the right Iggy contortions out of the book, but there seems to be a whole load of pummelling going on up there which doesn't have any real immediate effect. But this is just a brief opening blip, and after a few songs, round about the time Arm straps on a second glittery guitar, Mudhoney just ROCK. The Iggy comparison becomes even more valid, as the band owe a great deal to The Stooges. Razor wire electric guitars scything over a lasciviously supple rhythm section, topped off with hysterical edge-of-total-meltdown vocals.

By the time they barrel through the ever eternal "Touch Me I'm Sick", the constantly moshing crowd is eating out of their hands. The set is packed with early classics, enhancing the early nineties Friday Night down Potterrow feel, and by the final burst of visceral sleaze which is "Sweet Young Thing Ain't Sweet No More", one can't help wishing that Mudhoney got out a whole lot more. A night of authentic, honest-to-goodness, unironic rock'n'roll. What more can any generation ask for?