The Muffs: Blonder and Blonder

Muffs_BlonderAndBlonder1995 sophomore summit, reissued with bonus tracks!

Two years after their self-titled 1993 debut, the Muffs stripped down to a trio with the departure of Melanie Vammen (less than a week before recording) and the arrival of new drummer Roy McDonald. The result is tighter, punchier and even more ferocious than the first outing, with Kim Shattuck’s songwriting sharpened and her vocals often escalating into howls. The album is a perfect example of pop-punk, marrying the catchy melodies of the former with the unrestrained energy of the latter. Shattuck’s rhythm guitar playing is tough, but her leads have the melodic winsomeness of Gary Lewis & The Playboys records. Even the suicide song, “End It All,” is hummable.

Shattuck notes in the liners that “On and On” was influenced by Freddie & The Dreamers, and indeed the opening riff is lifted from “I’m Telling You Now.” She also notes that “Laying on a Bed of Roses” borrows from the Creation’s “Biff Bang Pow,” and with the transvestite of “Oh, Nina” echoing the Kinks’ “Lola,” the British Invasion connection is strong. Her lyrics can be self-pitying (“Sad Tomorrow”) and bratty (“Won’t Come Out to Play”), but she’s nobody’s fool, easily kicking a cheater to the curb in “What You’ve Done.” The album closes with an unusual segue between the freakout “I’m Confused” and the spiffed-up acoustic demo “Just a Game,” ending in a couplet that encapsulates the yin and yang of punk-pop.

Omnivore’s 2016 reissue adds the UK B-sides “Become Undone” and “Goodnight Now,” and demos of “Red Eyed Troll,” “Won’t Come Out to Play” (with its Buddy Holly roots intact) and “Pennywhore” (which turned up on Happy Birthday to Me). Also featured are demos of “Born Today” and “Look at Me,” neither of which seem to have made it to final form. Unlike the guitar-and-voice demos on the debut album’s reissue, these tracks have basic bass and drums that indicate what they’d sound like as band songs. There’s a taste of Shattuck’s demo of “Become Undone” at the end of track twenty-one, and a hidden backwards CD bonus track at #22, but the demo of “I’m Confused” that Shattuck lauds in the liners is MIA.

The reissue’s 20-page booklet includes numerous photos, liner notes by Ronnie Barrett and Roy McDonald, the latter detailing his second chance at joining the band, and song notes by Shattuck. This is a good upgrade for fans who already have the original album, and the place to start for those who haven’t yet dived into the Muffs. [©2016 Hyperbolium]

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