[10 June 2014]
PopMatters Associate Music Editor
A friend of mine once professed Mudhoney’s punk rock authenticity because they gravitated to clubs where they were level with the audience—literally. If their stage didn’t happen to be the same floor on which everyone stood to watch, it was never very high off the floor either. Literally and metaphorically, Mudhoney was a band that never wanted to look down on their fans or anyone else. So to celebrate their first 25 years together, Sub Pop got the band to haul all of their gear up to the top of Seattle’s Space Needle to do a half-hour set. This is probably the highest off the ground that the band has ever performed, but the small club atmosphere followed them up there. When first listening to the Record Store Day exclusive On Top: KEXP Presents Mudhoney Live on Top of the Space Needle, I noticed the sound of thin applause between the numbers. Where there only ten people clapping for them or something? I looked online to find that I was close. The crowd was actually thirteen people. Obviously, space was an issue. I don’t think singer Mark Arm even bothered picking up a guitar. I’m guessing that time and noise were more issues to deal with since the Space Needle is, after all, a tourist attraction/restaurant and not a rock club. Considering all of the above, it’s a pretty good sounding little album.
I say “little” because these ten songs last for only 27 minutes. The set is nothing that would surprise any staunch Mudhoney fan. They play half of their latest album Vanishing Point and back it up with plenty of old favorites like “Touch Me, I’m Sick” and “Suck You Dry”. They fittingly include “Into the Drink” since the song’s video has a passing glimpse of the Space Needle. Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge is actually represented with two songs, the other one being “Who You Drivin’ Now?”
In my review of Mudhoney’s Live at Third Man Records, I remarked on how well the band’s brand new tunes held up against the 25-year-old tunes. In other words, if you didn’t know anything about Mudhoney, you would never have guessed which songs were from 1988 and which ones were from 2013. And the same goes for this set. They let fly “The Final Course”, “What to Do With the Neutral”, “I Don’t Remember You”, “Chardonnay” and close the record with “The Only Son of the Widow from Nain”. And the cool thing about playing these new songs to thirteen people 605 feet off the ground is that no one can say “I don’t wanna hear these new songs, I’m gonna go grab a beer.” Well, they could say that, but it won’t get them anywhere.
All in all, it’s a good little live record. Steve Turner’s amp starts to fritz out towards the end and Mark Arm continues to scream just as he did back in the Green River days. And sometime during that sunny day, tourists strolling around on the sidewalks of Seattle may or may not have heard that voice shout “Fucking Lazarus got all the fame!” down from the sky.