The last thing that you expect to hear on a Mudhoney song is a lone saxophone staggering through the psychedelic mist of hippie-dippy organs, twittering electronica and slow-burn guitar rumble. Yet thar she blows in meandering amplitude on "Baby, Can You Dig the Light?" the extended opening salvo of the band's eighth full-length album, Since We've Become Translucent. And thar she blows some more on the album's final cut, "Sonic Infusion," a similarly lengthy and droning opus that bookends matters with a strangely dislocated sense of time and place.
Purveyors of paganistic astral travel, the grand elders of grunge take plenty of surprising detours on their one-record deal with long-lost flame Sub Pop, but they manage to re-enter Earth's gravitational pull in one solid piece. During live encores recently, the 'Honeys have been covering Hawkwind's "Urban Guerrilla" (a tune withdrawn from UK radio playlists circa 1972 during a series of terrorist attacks in London) so the band's new love for sonic wanderlust in the studio makes sense. In addition to exploring uncharted dimensions via skronking free jazz and velvet-toned vibes, the band also dives into unexpected brass arrangements on both "Where the Flavor Is" and the amusingly punchy "Take It Like a Man." (Lyrical chestnut #1: "Once you realize that you're not in charge/It makes your codpiece feel a little too large.")
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Elsewhere, the album relies on gunk rawk's three-chords-for-beer formula and owes its overall sonic diversity to the use of three different producers in three different studios. Recording ace/odd man out Jack Endino even drops by for a nostalgic trip down Superfuzz/Bigmuff lane on "Inside Job," a crunchy call to arms featuring MC5's graying white panther, Wayne Kramer. Ironic self-loathing likewise enhances "In the Winner's Circle," a tune that finds hysterical frontman Mark Arm -- seemingly happy with whatever attention his band has received over the years -- screeching on the verge of a nosebleed: "Yeah, I'm a winner/'Cause I got nothing left to lose/I got nothing/And I feel all right." It's a fitting emotional state for a band that not only pre-dated the hype of grunge, but outlived its usefulness.