July 26th, 1991, Mudhoney released their second studio album, Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge, through Sub Pop Records. The second LP from Mudhoney was the album that kept the lights on at Sub Pop Records. According to Bruce Pavitt, around this time, the Seattle-based record label barely had the funds to pay their utility bills, let alone the bands on their roster. Mudhoney were Sub Pop’s golden boys, forging new ground and territories for the fledgling indie label.
Since their rise from the ashes of Green River in 1988, the band released a clarion call debut EP and a raucous debut album. They toured the US and Europe, becoming darlings of the UK music press, who couldn’t get enough of their wild garage punk, sludgy, blues sounds. The band was formed in 1988 by ex-Green River alumni Mark Arm and Steve Turner, with ex-Melvin’s bassist Matt Lukin and ex-Bundle Of Hiss drummer Dan Peters.
They dropped their debut single, “Touch Me I’m Sick,” which became an instant classic, followed by their first EP, Superfuzz Big Muff. When their self-titled debut album came out the following year, Mudhoney was at the forefront of a movement brewing in the Pacific Northwest. While Mudhoney were forging ahead musically, their label was struggling. Sub Pop co-founder Bruce Pavitt recalls the time leading up to the release of Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge:
“By summer 1991, just before Nevermind coming out, we had essentially fired or laid off a staff of 12, 13 people. Nobody was left except me, Jon, and a gentleman named Rich Jensen, who had volunteered to work for free for six months in exchange for company shares. Rich slept on a couch in the office and did a lot of work to keep us together because, by that time, Jon and I were so demoralized we could barely make it to the office. We were packing boxes in the warehouse, shipping $1,000 worth of records to Tokyo, and barely bringing in enough money to pay the office rent….”
Sub Pop was on the brink of collapse with mounting debt, bills, and rent due. Mudhoney were still waiting for their royalty payments from previous releases. Against this backdrop, they entered the studio with producer Jack Endino to try to kickstart the new album. While Endino and the band had gelled brilliantly for the Superfuzz/Big Muff EP and debut album recording, the band soon felt they needed a different direction after Jack insisted they use a 24-track recording console.
“For me at the time, I didn’t like the way that stuff sounded, which was too clean for what I thought we should have sounded like,” recalls Turner. Instead, the band turned to Conrad Uno at Egg Studios, who had produced recordings by The Young Fresh Fellows and The Fastbacks and worked as an engineer on the debut Mudhoney album. Steve Turner said of working at Egg Studios, “Egg was a fairly limited studio, just an 8-track, in a basement, so there was only so much we could do. To me, it felt like it tightened up the songwriting. We had to decide what could go in the song because that’s all that could fit on the tracks. There wasn’t much leeway…”
With the album finished, all that was left to do was for Sub Pop to release it so the band could go on tour. However, options were limited, with the label broke and on the verge of bankruptcy. Turner said, “It was frustrating because we had this tour lined up, and Sub Pop was delaying our record release, and they owed us some money.”
Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge finally got released on July 26th, 1991. The album opens with Mark Arm’s droning organ on the instrumental “Generation Genocide.” The band falls in with buzzsaw fuzz guitars and a ’60 garage rock feel. “Let It Slide” follows; it’s quintessential Mudhoney. A chaotic fade roars in, and Mark Arm wastes no time grabbing you by the lapels and shaking you from your stupor. The song’s outro is a tumultuous wreck of hay-wire guitars, bass and drums, which Sonic Youth would be proud of.
“Good Enough” doubles down on the ’60s garage rock vibe. Mark Arm sings, “I’ve made mistakes/That I’m sure I’ll make again/Guess I liked them enough/The first time around.” Steve Turner kicks off “Something So Clear” with a very Robbie Kriger-esque guitar riff, its fast thrill reminiscent of the Door’s guitarists’ beautiful attack. The tones soon change with jagged guitar stabs smothered in tight fuzz. Dan Peter’s jackhammer-rolling drums propel the song with steam engine proficiency.
“Thorn” opens with Matt Lukin’s filthy bassline before the band locks in at warp speed as Arm bellows, “I’ve got a thorn in my side/About the size of your eye/I feel it sticking through/I feel it sticking through…” Dan Peters introduces “Into The Drink” with his signature snare and tom work; acoustic and electric guitars splatter over the beat as Mark Arm smudges his lyrics across the verse before the band tightens up for the ’80s hardcore punk-like, gang vocal chorus roar of “Into The Drink.”
“Broken Hands” is a mid-tempo slow scorcher. Full of pathos, its regretful tone intensifies into a persistent stomp. The seasick roll of “Move Out” features some tasty harmonica from Steve Turner. Instrumental “Fuzz Gun 91” rips with reverb dripping fuzz. “Pokin’ Around” hurtles along and is reminiscent of Bug era Dinosaur Jr. “Don’t Fade IV” and “Check-Out Time” round out a boisterous, noisy, riotous, rip-roaring classic album.
Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge would go on to sell a respectable 100,000 copies, helping Sub Pop get out of the red. It even cracked the UK’s top 40 album chart. While fame and fortune would never come knocking the way it did for their peers, Mudhoney felt that was likely for the best. Nirvana ripped the lid off the underground just a few months later with the release of Nevermind.
Turner said: “Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge floated Sub Pop for those six months. Bruce Pavitt says it saved them for a while, but there was a little bit of bad blood between us because they owed us a lot of money already. We were a little nervous. I was really happy that they survived, but there was no guarantee that Sub Pop would survive another year….”
Bruce Pavitt remembers the knife edge the label was on before the release of Mudhoney’s sophomore album and after it hit the shelves, saying: “Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge came out, which sold, like, 100,000 copies, and then Nevermind came out and was expected to sell 40,000 and ended up selling 10 million…” Sub Pop was suddenly back in business.
Mudhoney distilled the satirical ferocity of ’80s hardcore punk, the ’60 garage rock of Pacific Northwest legends The Sonics and The Lollipop Shoppe, the interstellar head-trips of Hawkwind and the heavy guitar workouts of Neil Young into their own distinct, fuzz-drenched sound. Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge is an album that defines a sound and a time.