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This is the first instance of Matt's Record Reviews:  Up this month are Hole and Mudhoney.
Comments? Questions?  Disaggreements?  Send them to maslevin@acs.ucalgary.ca

 
    While most of their peers have either been dropped from major label land (TAD,  the Melvins), broken up [Soundgarden, Nirvana, Urge Overkill) or faded into obscurity [Screaming Trees), Mudhoney have kept their sardonic wit and sense of humor.  This is evident throughout their new album "Tomorrow Hit Today", their first since 1995's "My Brother the Cow", and in my opinion is the best rock album released this year.
    In more than one way, this represents Mudhoney's detachment from their earlier efforts.   Firstly, the CD sleeve is devoid of the Eddy Fotheringham art Mudhoney fans have always identified with the band.  Secondly, this is the first time they've really went all out on the production (actually, Jack Endino, who did most of their earlier work, refused to be identified as a producer).  No offense to Mr. Endino, I am a big fan of his work as well, but I think that this kind of production really suits Mudhoney at this particular stage of their evolution.  In fact it is my favorite of their records since their 1991 SubPop release "Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge".  Thirdly, Mark Arm's lyrics reflect a more mature view of the world.  "This is the Life"  characterizes the narrator as a man in modern times trying to cope with as well as identify his problems rather than just laugh at them the way he did on "Today is a Good Day" from "My Brother the Cow".  "Beneath the Valley of the Underdog" shows a gritty image of bitterness, in a more direct manner than the band has ever used before.  The line "If I'm the guy you're looking for, Just look down, under some rock" from the track, perhaps belies more truth about the singer's state than he would admit.
    Clearly, this album annuls  the mock prediction they made in their 1992 video for "Suck You Dry" where they were faux-celebrating "10 years of Grunge 1988-1998" with Krist and Shelli Novoselic and other Seattle-ebrities.  Let's just celebrate 10 years of good music, and if Mudhoney can keep making records like this, hopefully many more.  A must get.
                         Rating 4.5/5
    Hole, like Mudhoney, have not released a full length album since 1995. Their last EP "Asking For it" was more reactionary than creative.  This album is significantly better from a songwriting perspective, yet still reactionary.  Where "Asking For it " was reactionary against the rise of Schlock Grunge (BU$H) and the death of a loved one, "Celebrity Skin" is reactionary against Hollywood cliches and big C's whack at being a starlet.  Billy Corgan the Great Pumpkin makes a guest appearance as a song-writer-helper-guitar-arranger.
    First of all, let me make my prejudices clear.  I don't think within the space of one album a band should EVER change so much that they sound like a different band.  Hole sounds like a different band.  Can you blame 'ol Billy-O?  I don't think so.  Can you blame the production? I wouldn't say the production is that much better than "Live Through This".  What's left to blame?  Nothing.  Just accept that this is not the same Courtney Love that sang "Garbage Man" long before Butch Vig started his little project.  Did I mention that I thought the Smashing Pumpkins' album "Adore" was pretty flatulent.  Well, Celebrity Skin may have eaten a big bean burrito, but thankfully, it's not flatulent.
     I enjoyed most of the songs on this record.  Especially "Reasons to Be Beautiful", "Playing Your Song" and "Use Once & Destroy" which sounds like they stole Gary Numan's analog synth from "the Pleasure Principle" then started to rock out over it.  Some of the songs are very quiet and light, and it appears that Courtney is moving more in a folk direction, which  may be the more healthy direction.  A post-post-modern Patti Smith?  It could be a fun party.  "Hit So Hard" is a pretty song with a very cool bass line in the chorus by Melissa Auf Der Maur.
     "Northern Star" sounds like "What if Courtney Love wrote Disarm" but Billy supposedly at least didn't write any part of it.  "Boys on the Radio" and "Heaven Tonight" both  sound pretty funny, I just can't fathom Courtney singing multitrack layers of pop vocals in the studio.  The most impressive thing I got from  this album is how much stronger Eric Erlandson, Melissa Auf Def Maur and Patti Scnel have gotten as a unit.  My fave riff is the guitar part from  "Playing your song".  I don't want to hear that was studio geek shit.  Let the illusion stand.
                            Rating 3.5/5

Mudhoney Album Cover Copyright Warner Bros 1998
Hole Album Cover Copyright Geffen Records, Inc. 1998