Under a Billion Stars

My relationship with Mudhoney goes back to their first 7-inch and subsequent tour when they were part of the first crop of bands on a new label out of Seattle called Sub Pop. That was nearly 20 years ago. Today only lumberjacks wear flannel shirts, and the label that brought the world Nirvana now releases albums by bearded men who sound like Simon and Garfunkel. Yet Mudhoney endures, and Under a Billion Suns, the band’s seventh LP, is proof. Yeah, they’re older, perhaps more sober (Matt Lukin, probably the most unhinged element of the band, is gone) and somewhat more sonically polished, but unmistakably Mudhoney. Mark Arm’s trademark rasp skims the surface of dueling fuzz guitars and pounding drums. There’s even a horn section (think the Saints Eternally Yours more than, say, Chicago XVI). Lyrically, the band dabbles in middle age (“Empty Shells”) and the state of the union (“It is Us” and “Hard-On for War”). It’s 21st-century biker rock for less burly, less hairy dudes who own Schwinns, not Harleys. The bottom line: Under a Billion Stars is a solid album with songs that would probably scorch synapses live. Old fans should dig this for sure, and the uninitiated may make a buddy for life.