The members of Mudhoney will forever be classified as the Godfathers of Grunge, and for good reason. Their debut — 1989’s aptly named Superfuzz Bigmuff — set the grunge-rock template, stirring punk-rock sneer with metal riffs and drenching it all in distortion.
The success of the album in turn allowed their label, Sub Pop Records, the means necessary to push other acts like Soundgarden and Nirvana out of the Northwest and onto the national stage. Of course, there’s a reason Mudhoney is best remembered as a stepping-stone to bigger bands rather than in the same category.
The quartet could never be bothered to scrub the superfuzz off its sound and record anything remotely radio-friendly (beyond college radio at least.) The approach certainly limited record sales, but likely made for better music. As Superfuzz Bigmuff and their run of excellent early ’90s albums proved, the band’s classification as a gateway to Nirvana would be like calling The Stooges just a precursor to the Ramones.
There’s truth to it, but it also misses the elemental power of the source material, one that no band, no matter how heavily influenced, could duplicate. Key tracks like “In ‘n’ Out of Grace” and “Suck You Dry” showcase the band’s undeniable gift for song craft, along with their Butthole Surfers-like skill for sabotaging their own songs, be it by guitarist Steve Turner’s buzzsaw riffing or singer Mark Arm’s bizarro lyrics.
Other than a brief hiatus in the late ’90s, Mudhoney has continued touring and cranking out records, largely maintaining the same intensity and disregard for hearing loss.
Mudhoney plays 9 pm Wednesday, Oct. 14, at Hi-Fi Music Hall; $18.