Review by Will Harris and photos by Paul Broome
2013 has been a big year for the return of grunge (if we’re to use such an arbitrary and meaningless genre term): Soundgarden came back with King Animal, Alice In Chains released their sophomore reunion album The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here, and tonight’s headliners, Mudhoney, put out the superb Vanishing Point. The packed house in the Library room of The Institute that awaits the fuzz-punk yowlers proves there is indeed still big demand for the music, even though a paper sign that reads ‘NO CROWD SURFING’ reminds us the sweaty glory days of the Seattle alt-rock explosion are no longer.
But it seems somebody might have forgotten to tell that to Toronto noise trio Metz, who fly in with a fast punk riff that intensifies to mania on the entry of the thundering drums. Even technical issues don’t deter them: bassist Chris Slorach throws his head on every other beat, while frontman Alex Edkins shakes with spasmic intensity on every scream. An early interval between songs has them joke around over deep feedback while the problem’s solved, but mostly they storm through their set like a bouncing, 10-ton, coked-up Shellac doing exceptional covers of Nirvana’s most extreme material. They might only have one mode, but they do an unforgettable job of wearing in the receptive audience’s ear drums the same way you might wear in some new brogues by vomiting violently into them and beating them with a mallet.
Tinnitus is allowed to subside briefly before the steady build-up of Mudhoney’s opener, ‘Poisoned Water’, and though there’s instant pogoing and excitement from the mosh pit, the on stage action is pretty, well, static. The following ‘Slipping Away’, brought in by the exceptional sporadic drumming of Dan Peters (is this guy ever not on form?), has lead guitarist Steve Turner show up as the most animated, but frontman Mark Arm still isn’t really playing ball, even if his scream into the new track’s groovy stoner rock outro is awesome. And that’s where the problem is: the songs sound great, but Arm in particular isn’t exuding his usual quirky playful confidence; during ‘I Like It Small’, he appears to have left the mocking personality of its verses in the studio. Managing to ably recite your material, no matter how huge it sounds, just isn’t enough in this game.
Through the next few songs, Turner and Peters put in some brilliant flashes here and there, and ‘Sweet Young Thing’ feels like it’s gathered only more sleaze and volume in the 20+ years since it was written. When it comes round to the fuzz rock of breakthrough hit ‘Touch Me I’m Sick’ (their 13th song), apparently the renewed enthusiasm of the audience reinvigorates those on stage too, and the power of both sides virtually tears the room apart. From here Arm puts down the guitar and steps inside a whole new skin, animating himself in wild and weird ways: one minute he sways, chest out, like a slow, menacing Mick Jagger, the next he lunges back and forth floating his long spidery limbs around like a circus act. He throws himself around through the screeching of ‘I Don’t Remember You’ and the furious punk of ‘Chardonnay’, and ‘The Only Son Of The Widow From Nain’ sees him madly chase his microphone across the stage, mouth first. The whole time, the band rock and strike determinedly around him.
A closing encore of four rampant classics and three storming covers leaves the audience with fast heart rates and screaming with joy. Mudhoney proved with their latest album that they’ve still got it, and tonight shows they still know how to flaunt it too — once they find it, that is.
I Like It Small
You Got It (Keep It Outta My Face)
Suck You Dry
Where The Flavor Is
Sweet Young Thing (Ain’t Sweet No More)
Rage Retribution and Thyme
No One Has
Douchebags On Parade
Touch Me I’m Sick
What To Do With The Neutral
The Final Course
I Don’t Remember You
The Only Son Of The Widow From Nain
Into The Drink
Here Comes Sickness
In ‘N’ Out Of Grace
Tales of Terror
The Money Will Roll Right In
Hate The Police
See more of Paul’s photos here;