The Muffs - The Muffs (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

The Muffs

The Muffs (1993)

Warner Bros.

Back in 1993, grunge was taking over the world, with its flannel shirts and in many cases, barely listenable bands; much of the world was crying out for something less dull, something that would sparkle and lighten the mood. Handily, the Muffs came along; then a four-piece including two ex-members of the Pandoras, Kim Shattuck (lead guitar and vocals) and Melanie Vammen (rhythm guitar), plus Ronnie Barnett (bass) and Criss Crass (drums). In Shattuck, the band had a front person whose voice initially sounded quite sweet, but it didn't take long to hear the snottier, almost sarcastic tone that underlined her performance. The other noticeable quality about Shattuck's voice was that out of nowhere, she could produce a howl that was akin to a trapped wolf seeking freedom; quite a thing to behold.

The album itself had a production team which included Rob Cavallo, the man who one year later would be part of Green Day's meteoric rise to fame, fortune and the world of the mainstream, but who at this stage was a much lesser known man than he is today as Chairman of Warner Bros. The production was and remains spot on in terms of a suitably beefy sound that allows the guitars to come across with the right amount of treble, creating a perfect pop-punk output. From the moment that the first chords of "Lucky Guy" rang out, it was obvious that Cavallo and co. had hit the right note with the production job, one that worked extremely well for the band and the pop-punk sound it had.

The Muffs took the sound of the Ramones and added their own twist on it, and the result was a mass of catchy songs, frequently containing acerbic lyrics aimed at a variety of targets. These themes leant themselves to Shattuck's vocals, which were underpinned by a less caustic musical accompaniment meaning that the tunes would stick like glue once heard a couple of times, and you'd find yourselves singing melodic songs with titles such as "Big Mouth" as if they were songs of joy and happiness. It wasn't always a case of musical vitriol, as there are songs that take a more positive view on the world but for me, Shattuck never sounded better than when she was honing in on her prey.

In addition to Shattuck, Barnett and Crass get a joint vocal outing on the 31 seconds of "Stupid Jerk," another song befitting of the Muffs' unwritten agenda of saying it like it was. To throw in some variety, there was always the slightly Beatlesesque "Another Day," the more garage-influenced "I Need You" and the slower numbers like "All For Nothing" and "Eye To Eye." Additionally tagged (hidden) onto the last track "All For Nothing" is an example of a short, sharp explosion of pure thrashy punk rock, showing a distinctly different side to the band. Looking back, one might have taken the outbursts of Shattuck as those belonging to a teenager but actually she turned thirty in the year this album was released; she was letting her moods dictate her songwriting, which worked out quite well for the Muffs and fans alike.

Twenty years on and this album sounds as fresh and as fun as it did on its release. It's still my favourite long player from the band, although subsequent releases never failed to offer up a fistful of musical gems that stayed true to the sound the Muffs began with, even if it was the only album recorded as a four-piece (Vammen and Crass were to leave the band with Roy McDonald eventually taking up permanent residence behind the drums).