My Mudhoney collection was fairly impressive in ’93, having dug deep into the band’s Sub Pop soil, but the disc I found at Vintage Vinyl, Jack’s or wherever I was buying records at the time was of special interest: it was a live bootleg.
Hearing a band live – or hearing a live recording they had no control over releasing or not releasing – can be a sacred act, and live recordings, at their best, illustrate what an outfit sounds like at its most organic. That anonymous Mudhoney disc, a self-titled outing sometimes referred to as A Fulminant Live Act In Early Summer 1992, was good. And it give me a sneak peek into the Mudhoney live shows I was, then, too young to attend.
Enter LiE, short for “Live In Europe.” Out today on Sub Pop, the band’s once and future home, the not-limited, not-bootlegged live disc assembles some recent thrashings of Mark Arm & Co. and, for Mudhoney aficionados, it’s pretty essential stuff. It’s viciously performed and carefully recorded. In short, it’s a good disc. But that’s where I stop.
Yes, songs like “Get Into Yours,” off 1989’s Mudhoney, and “Judgement, Rage, Retribution and Thyme,” off 1995’s My Brother The Cow, are blister-inducing. The closer, the epic “Broken Hands,” off Every Good Boy Deserve Fudge, is wonderful. But, it’s not an introduction to the band’s best work – nor its best lineup: Lukin snatch – or a must-have addition to the catalog. As grunge goes, it falls into familiar territory: like Melvins’ Your Choice Live or even Nirvana’s From The Muddy Banks of the Wishkah, it’s only for completists.
What does it do well? It gets the anthemic “Suck You Dry” right, that’s for sure. The group’s two-guitar assault is on full display there. I’ve always enjoyed its take on Roxy Music’s “Editions of You,” originally released as a single in ’99, and provided here with true vitriol. And the band made the right move by not including all-too-obvious staples like “Touch Me, I’m Sick” or “Here Comes Sickness.” In the end, it’s a good offering for people on the inside. Given this descends from Seattle in the Age of Grunge, that’s a pretty big circle. But I’d take that bootleg, for all its warts, over LiE – it was full of wonder because the band didn’t know they were being captured. It was more true to some idyllic form. And, though LiE is a good disc – I can’t really say that enough – that says a lot.