Friday, August 21, 2015

The Muffs - s/t (1993, reissue 2015 Omnivore) & Hard-ons Too Far Gone (1993, reissue 2015 Citadel)

1993 in and of itself may have seemed like a relatively inauspicious year for music - and maybe it was, but as far as I was concerned that year solidified the 1990s as a decade that was every bit as credible and prosperous as the the three or four decades preceding it.  Let's consider all that contemporary rock music had going for it in '93 - the Pacific Northwest, albeit having blown up a few years prior was still a hot spot, there were copious amounts of indie/punk tuneage emanating from such hubs as San Diego, Chapel Hill, Washington D.C. and Dallas, and in case you needed a reminder, things were raging on the other side of the pond to boot with no deficit of quality shoegazer outfits, not to mention more traditional Britpop entries.  So where did The Muffs and more specifically their recently reissued debut album slot into this horn o' plenty?  Not squarely into any of the aforementioned categories I'm afraid, rather this quartet (subsequently a trio) represented a very sweet cherry atop an already bustling cake of rock and roll riches.

Anyone with an inkling of what the Muffs are about know that the heart and soul of the band is ensconced within Kim Shattuck, who in the '80s had paid her dues in The Pandoras, and was a frequent collaborator with the on/off again punk send-up troupe White Flag.  Kim's timbre registers somewhere between a shrill whine and a howling roar - just the kind of moxie necessary for survival in virtually any strata or punk rock.  It was a given that she'd eventually front her own band, yet I doubt anyone could have predicted how effective and powerful that endeavor would be.  Preceded by some bodacious singles issued on labels like Sympathy for the Industry and Sub Pop, The Muffs major label affiliation had seemingly nil effect on the sixteen boisterous proceedings within.  Equal quotients pop and punk The Muffs eponymous debut was a positively pummeling yet bubblegum splattered body of song - a hookfest so unremitting that it could easily pass for a greatest hits compilation.  Key salvos like "Better Than Me," "From Your Girl" and "Big Mouth" meld sticky-sweet persuasion to a decidedly aggro sonic aplomb, bearing the kind of visceral muster that only the waning years of the twentieth century could claim culpability for.  If The Muffs strikes you as un-toppable, that's because it sorta was, though the groups third attempt, 1997's Happy Birthday to Me clocked in at a respectable second...but I digress.

The freshly remastered incarnation on Omnivore boasts ten bonus cuts, the bulk of which are Shattuck solo demos.  "Do You Want Her" and "I Don't Expect" are remarkably hot prototypes left on the cutting room floor that could have been competitive album contenders.  Also, remember "Everywhere I Go," the Muffs tune that was featured in a Fruitopia TV ad of all things?  The cassette version of The Muffs featured a version that differed from the CD, and it makes an appearance here as well.  MIA are two songs from the Muffs "Big Mouth" promo single on Warner Bros, a re-recording of the ace single side "Right in the Eye," and the actual 45 version of another non-LP nugget, "New Love."  I'm presenting those tracks here, but as far as the reissue itself goes, it can be obtained straight from Omnivore, or Amazon and iTunes.  No vinyl I'm afraid.

Lately, I've been talking up a series of reissues from the somewhat likeminded Hard-ons, punk/skate legends from the great state of Australia, Sydney to be exact.  Over the last three years Citadel Records has done yeoman's work in orchestrating an exhaustive series of collections surrounding all five Hard-ons albums and their attendant eps, singles and more from the band's original 1980s/90s incarnation.  The fifth and final of these packed-to-the-gills compendiums involves Too Far Gone.  The album landed three years after the Hard-ons most consistent and dazzling album to date '90's Yummy!  And whereth did said "dazzle" emanate from specifically?  Simply put, Yummy! played to this trio's heightened melodic strengths, intermittent at best on their earlier ventures which often wallowed in a sophomoric (albeit amusing) stupor.  If anything else I expected TFG to be the next rung up the ladder, relatively speaking.  Instead, the album is haphazard and slapdash, meandering in and out of varying styles, with an excessive amount of obnoxious and messy hardcore dabbling.  Still, Too Far Gone has more structured saving graces  - "I Do, I Do, I Do," "Notice Me," "If She Only Knew," and "Wishing Well," with that last one being culled from the "Crazy Crazy Eye" ep padded on as bonus material to disk one.  That leaves the second disk, a marathon 31 song smorgasbord comprised predominantly of demos and outtakes from the same era that is truly for the dedicated Hard-ons acolyte.  If anything else the liner notes and packaging are bountiful and impressive as ever.  If you're new to the Hard-ons, indulge in Yummy! first and then work your way backward.  For better or worse, the band called it a day after this record.

The expanded edition to Too Far Gone is available from Citadel, Red Eye and Amazon.  Check out a pair of tracks in the sampler below.

The Muffs
Right in the Eye
New Love

I Do I Do I Do
Wishing Well (demo)


johnnybgoode said...

The Muffs. Great Band. I always liked Blonder and Blonder the best, but they are all great. Love the Kim Shattuck Scream. Frank Black was an idiot the way he treated her in the Pixies.After he dumped Kim, I finally had enough of the Pixies and Frank's mercenary ways.

Joseph Kyle said...

According to Kim, the issue wasn't with Frank, but with Dave Lovering.

spavid said...

Blonder and Blonder never really moved me. Funny that, because I took to ...Birthday almost immediately. Hmmm. I forgot to mention her involvement in the Pixies.