Mudhoney has set a March 7 release date for its ninth Sub Pop album, “Under a Billion Suns.” The 11-track set features backing vocals from Christy McWilson and Amy Allison on “Let’s Drop In” and “I Saw the Light,” plus several tracks with a horn section arranged by Craig Flory.
And while Sub Pop co-founder Jonathan Poneman previously told Billboard.com the album was “more political” than typical Mudhoney fare, frontman Mark Arm says, “That may be a little exaggerated. There are four songs where those things are touched on. It’s more kind of mocking than the stark, black or white approach.”
“There’s a lot of satire involved,” he continues. “And to say that’s never been the case before, I mean, one of the first things we ever recorded was ‘Hate the Police!'”
Although songs like “Hard on for War” (which was written around the time of the U.S.’s 2003 invasion of Iraq), “On the Move,” and “I Saw the Light” have been appearing in Mudhoney’s recent live shows, Arm says the band wasn’t particularly looking to fine-tune the material before it hit the studio.
“There’s something to be said for something that is completely spontaneous,” he says. “On the last record [2002’s ‘Since We’ve Become Translucent’], we recorded everything as we wrote it. But this time, we knew we’d only be able to go in on three separate weekends, so we did each one with a different engineer.”
Splitting time between Phil Ek (Built To Spill, Modest Mouse), Johnny Sangster and Mount Analog’s Tucker Martine helped make the new set “sonically more diverse and interesting, as opposed to every song having the same drum sound,” Arm offers.
Mudhoney is gearing up to open for longtime Seattle mates Pearl Jam during its upcoming nine-show South American tour, which begins Nov. 22 in Santiago, Chile. Arm still fondly recalls a 1993 Pearl Jam show in Las Vegas, during which he joined members of the band to perform two songs by Green River. That mid-’80s Seattle outfit featured Arm and guitarist Steve Turner pre-Mudhoney, plus future Pearl Jammers Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament.
“I think that bummed out the crowd,” he says with a laugh. “That was at the height of the ‘Eddie’ chants in 1993, but because these were Green River songs, Eddie [Vedder] wasn’t even on stage. I’m sure people were scratching their head and thinking, ‘What the f*** is this?'”
Mudhoney has also submitted its artist wish list to organizers of next May’s All Tomorrow’s Parties/United States of ATP festival in Camber Sands, England, at which the band will curate a day’s worth of music. Arm would say only that the list features “a handful” of Seattle-area bands and “a mix of new and old” artists. “Our list is so long,” he says. “We’d need a whole weekend for all of it.”
Here is the track list for “Under a Billion Suns”:
“Where Is the Future”
“It Is Us”
“I Saw the Light”
“Hard on for War”
“A Brief Celebration of Indifference”
“Let’s Drop In”
“On the Move”
“In Search Of”