Mudhoney Walk Us Through Their Apocalypse-Anticipating New LP “Plastic Eternity” Track by Track

The Seattle grunge rockers riff on the worm-brain conservatism of the post-COVID era on their first album in five years, out now via Sub Pop.
Track by Track

Mudhoney Walk Us Through Their Apocalypse-Anticipating New LP Plastic Eternity Track by Track

The Seattle grunge rockers riff on the worm-brain conservatism of the post-COVID era on their first album in five years, out now via Sub Pop.

Words: Mike LeSuer

Photo: Emily Rieman

April 07, 2023

At the dawn of the Trump presidency, there was a widely circulated concession that “at least we’ll get some good punk music out of it”—an empty promise, it turned out, with the exception of a certain track by honorary punker YG. Instead, in the rearview, those four years of soft-launched apocalypse proved to be entertainment in and of themselves, as the waning moments of the administration pushed things into a consistency of stranger-than-fiction headlines not infrequently involving the smug ingestion of horse dewormer.

Rather than punk, it turned out, the era endlessly fed the vein of cynical grunge Mudhoney belongs to—if not instigated—with the Seattle icons returning with their own take on the past few years on Plastic Eternity, a refuse-minded sequel of sorts to 2018’s Digital Garbage. With trash still on the mind, the new LP blazes through the major plot points of a post-COVID world through the unique language of braised guitar-centric rock odysseys the band has been shaping for over three decades. From taking on fascism to less pressing (though still very, very concerning) injustices such as the lack of hyperlink attached to Tom Herman’s name of Pere Ubu’s Wiki page, Eternity does a commendable job of distilling the past five years of cascading crap into a firmly cohesive statement.

With the album arriving today via Sub Pop, vocalist Mark Arm took us track-by-track through the collection, in most cases sharing the songs’ development from the very specific corners of rock their riffs were drawn from and jokey placeholder titles to the face-blanching shreddery, pointed lyricism, and, yeah, still frequently jokey song titles of the final product.

Stream the record and read along to Arm’s notes below.

1. “Souvenir of My Trip”
Landing with a thudding proto-metal riff and a synth salute to the Ironside theme, we are back. Somehow our luggage disappeared, and we have nothing to offer you in exchange for your most generous and kind welcome—not even a lousy t-shirt.

2. “Almost Everything”
The music for this song was originally known as “Gopal.” It had been sitting in the recording device at our practice space for over 10 years avoiding getting erased because we always loved its swinging Escalator groove. What to do with it stumped me until right before recording I finally figured out how to approach it with vocals and a second guitar. Since we didn’t have tablas at our disposal, Dan [Peters] broke out the bongos for added propulsion. [Producer Johnny Sangster] helped us land on a chord progression for the final verse.

3. “Cascades of Crap”
The foundation for this song is Guy’s J-J Burnel–inspired bass. In a tip of the bowler to The (early) Stranglers, we initially called this “Flying Sewer Rats.” That working title influenced the lyrics. Add a Madness intro to this anthem of consumerism and voila: “Cascades of Crap” is born!

4. “Flush the Fascists”
A simple, but odd rhythm kept tugging on my bat chain during a commute to work. I recorded the idea on my phone and dinked around with it in the basement coming up with a sketch. In the studio, we looped a synth track and built it up from there, culminating in Steve’s splintering steel-shard guitar solo.

5. “Move Under”
Originally a spontaneous jam that we shaped and molded into a song. On our last day of mixing Steve [Turner] had an idea for backing vocals, turning the chorus into something The Runaways might have come up with if they were us.

6. “Severed Dreams in the Sleeper Cell”
While we were working on Guy [Maddison]’s riffs for this, it reminded Steve of John Mayall. Naturally, this led to the subject of photos on the Blues from Laurel Canyon LP which caused us to call this work in progress “Mayall’s Loincloth.” That did not lead to any lyrical inspirations. After a couple of false starts I came up with words that fit the feel of the music. Slide guitar, both forward and backward, was added and Johnny did the (Jon) Lord’s work on the Hammond.

7. “Here Comes the Flood”
Chaos and magical thinking in the chicken run set to driving rock ’n’ roll? You bet your life. I’m hard-pressed to think of anything more absurd and funnier than trying to kill a virus with livestock dewormer. Too soon? More than likely, it’s too late.

8. “Human Stock Capital”
In May of 2020, as COVID was raging through meat and poultry processing plants, Kevin Hassett, an economic advisor to the former Guy, got on my TV and said, “Our human capital stock is ready to go back to work.” I vomited so hard that shit came out of my mouth. When Dan presented us with this hardcore riff that he had been keeping to himself since the time of My Brother the Cow, I had lyrics at the ready.

9. “Tom Herman’s Hermits”
The working title never changed and, in this case, inspired the lyrics—a pæan to one of my all-time favorite guitar players. The need for this was confirmed by the fact that Tom Herman is the only member of the original classic line-up whose name on the Pere Ubu Wikipedia page doesn’t have a hyperlink. That shit needs to be rectified STAT!

10. “One or Two”
Dan wrote this on an acoustic guitar tuned to an open C. Johnny helped write the chorus. Dan tracked acoustic guitar first, and we built it up from there. The very Meddle feel of this gave Guy another reason to break out the synth and sparked my outer Gilmour to slide around on an open G Telecaster.

11. “Cry Me an Atmospheric River”
Mother Nature reclines on a bed of surging bass, Bill Ward/Clyde Stubblefield–inspired drumming, snaking fuzz guitar, and the Hendrix chord, dispassionate and content. The middle eight was written in the studio, but no one remembers exactly how. Johnny gets credit because he surely was involved.

12. “Plasticity”
We wrote a song in the grand tradition of “Wanted Man,” “I Believe,” and “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover,” built upon the pulsing foundation of a double stroke roll. In a bizarre and unpredictable coincidence, the last two words of this tune are also the title of our new album.  

13. “Little Dogs”
Dan brought this song in and it seemed like it was going to be an instrumental. I came up with words on a drive home from work anticipating how I would be greeted at the door. This is a love song.