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Sound Checks

Mudhoney
Thursday, March 11; the Galaxy

The Sins of Their Progeny, Part II: It's tempting to kick Mudhoney in the collective shin for their part in spawning Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam, Stone Temple Pilots, Bush and all the other overwrought, bellowing grunge boys of a few years ago. It's tempting also to give them a collective snuggy for failing to step up to the plate and break through to the masses in place of Soundgarden. But to get there, they would have had to beef up the Led Zep and Nuge in their sound and tone down the Dicks and Fang -- in general, they would have had to pee in the cup, pass the playlist test, fluff up their hair a bit more and start dating movie stars. And because they never did, God bless 'em.

Facts: Green River contained two future members of Mudhoney and two future members of Pearl Jam. They were from Seattle and made some noise in the mid-'80s. They broke up, ditched their fancy NYC label, put out their first music as Mudhoney on a little label called Sub Pop ("Touch Me I'm Sick"/ "Sweet Young Thing Ain't Sweet No More" set the world on fire in late '88) and released a couple hit/miss Sub Pop albums. Then 1991 happened, and while former labelmates Nirvana were taking off and dragging a bunch of idiots in their wake, Mudhoney sank like a stone.

Not artistically, mind you. It was just that everyone assumed that Mudhoney would be huge, and then they weren't (see first paragraph). And for that, God bless 'em. Of course, curse them for not being able to sneak one by the jerks in radioland -- they maybe could have done it with Piece of Cake in '92, when the suckers were lapping up anything remotely related to Cobain. But they didn't.

That was a long time ago, though, and since then the band has released album after album of The Rock, and with each one they've curled up in the fetal position a tad more, gotten a bit clunkier (their chords always seemed jarring next to each other; the more money-grubbing bands moved their fingers more logically), hired grassroots producers -- Jim Dickinson, producer of Big Star and the Replacements and guitarist for the amazing Mud Boy and the Neutrons, did their recent Tomorrow Hit Today -- and continued on their direct path to oblivion.

Maybe they need a DJ. Maybe they should hire a Japanese female pop singer. Maybe they should get Tortoise, Jim O'Rourke and Stereolab to drop down some intellectually challenging remixes. Maybe they should hire that Radiohead-producer guy to do their next album. Maybe they should do an album with Burt Bacharach.

But they won't. And for that, they'll remain in the netherworld of coulda woulda shoulda, with integrity, common sense and veins intact. And for that, God bless 'em. (RR)

Vassar Clements with the Flying Mules
Friday, March 12; the Sheldon

To celebrate the fifth anniversary of the Notes from Home series, a special concert this Friday will feature the great fiddle player Vassar Clements in combination with local band the Flying Mules. After Clements and the Mules perform in the Sheldon's Concert Hall, the music will continue in the upstairs ballroom with a concert/dance featuring pedal-steel guitarist Doug Jernigan with Scotty's All-Star Steel Band.

Clements has been playing world-class fiddle for 50 years, getting his start with bluegrass legend Bill Monroe, and over the years his eclectic sound has also incorporated elements of big-band swing, jazz and rock. Clements has performed on more than 2,000 recordings, with the likes of John Hartford, Woody Herman, Taj Mahal, Jerry Garcia, Bela Fleck and Paul McCartney, and has released 25 recordings as a leader. He's probably best known for his work on the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's classic Will the Circle Be Unbroken album and his own groundbreaking Hillbilly Jazz release.

Working with the talented and eclectic Flying Mules -- John Higgins, Charlie Pfeffer, Marc Rennard and Mike Prokopf -- Clements should be right in his element, and the combination of Clements with the Flying Mules fits right into the Notes from Home concept of spotlighting fine local musicians. (TP)

Alanis Morissette and Garbage
Sunday, March 14; Kiel Center

C all it the Jack Handy-fying of rock & roll. How else to explain the Deep Thoughts/glorified-journal-entries-as-rock-songs that now reign the charts under the names of Jewel and Alanis Morissette? Setting aside our bestselling Alaskan bard, Morissette's latest album, Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie (Maverick), is rife with navel-gazing sentiments such as worrying whether "I would be good even if I gained ten pounds" or "went bankrupt" or "was clingy" ("That I Would Be Good") or wondering "Would I be whining if I said I needed a hug?" ("Can't Not"). "Unsent" is even an open letter to her ex-boyfriends ("Dear Marcus, you rocked my world ... you wouldn't let me get away with kicking my own ass"). Yeesh. Where is long-ago Tonight Show host Steve Allen, who used to mock rock & roll lyrics by reading them as if they were serious poetry, when you need him?

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