Fuelled by scathing fury and a seemingly inexhaustible supply of scuzzy riffs, Digital Garbage sees Mudhoney frontman Mark Arm set his sights on post-truth America.
Over the course of 11 tracks, Arm vents his spleen at everything from evangelical Christianity and gun control, to right-wing paranoia and the spirit-crushing status anxiety of social media.
On opener Nerve Attack, Arm dials back his usual screaming vocal-style, sounding almost like David Bowie on this cautionary tale of a fragile mind fracturing under the pressures of modern life.
The trademark Seattle yowl is back with a vengeance on Paranoid Core – a savage indictment of those who use bigotry and fear to provoke feelings of anger and resentment.
Merciless in his mockery, Arm uses the language of prejudice to expose its inherent ridiculousness:
“Robots and aliens stealing jobs/They’re bringing drugs, they’ll rape your mom,
Beware the city’s dazzling lights/Where dykes are waiting to steal your wife”.
The scathing Kill Yourself Live (see below video) examines the lengths some will go for the sake of a like and the uncomfortable truth that every share is out there forever floating around in the titular digital garbage.
On Messiah’s Lament and the savagely brilliant 21st Century Pharisees – fast becoming a live favourite – Arm turns his ire on religion.
The shuffling Messiah – the band’s first song in 6/8 time – sees the singer imagine himself as a Christ-like figure looking down aghast at the outrages being committed in his name.
The snarling Pharisees, featuring a typically dissonant, dishevelled solo from Steve Turner, appears to satirise some right-wing Christian groups’ unwavering support for Donald Trump.
“He doesn’t give a fuck about your Jesus/And it’s clear that you don’t either,” Arm sneers above a barrage of electronics and skew-whiff guitars.
Musically, Mudhoney seldom stray far from their customary blistering squall of distortion, with Dan Peters‘ pugnacious drumming providing the foundation stone.
Guy Maddison contributes swirling synths and well as meaty, fibrous bass lines, with Arm himself providing Hammond organ on the lengthy intro to Kill Yourself Live.
Neanderfuck, as the name suggests, pokes fun at those who seem to take pride in their own ignorance, while the sinister Night And Fog starts like a Nick Cave Blues rattler before climaxing into a pulsating instrumental wig out.
There’s more terrific guitar work from Turner on Please Mr Gunman – inspired by a real-life church shooting – while Prosperity Gospel chastises the notion of wealth without responsibility.
As if to lift the pressure valve on all this intensity, the final song Oh Yeah is a joyful celebration of the simple pleasures of skating, surfing and biking.
It’s an upbeat ending to an angry album leavened, as ever, by Arm’s sarcastic wit and the sheer unburdened exuberance of the performances.
Everyone should have at least one Mudhoney album on their collection and Digital Garbage is no bad place to start.
- Digital Garbage is out now through Sub Pop Records on this link.
- For more about Mudhoney, including tour dates, visit their website here.