The Muffs – Really Really Happy

It’s been half a decade since Alert Today, Alive Tomorrow and Kim Shattuck seems to have matured a bit (though I’d say it’s even odds that you’ll still get a flash of panties or two at a gig). And she’s given herself a bit of space in these tunes. So while she still has her growl and strained moments, those leaps into her screaming thing are minimized. As best as she can she coaxes out the melodies with a caress – augmented by wafting backing vocals through the magic of multi-tracking and the occasional participation of her sister Kristen. There is a multitude of melodies spread around these seventeen tracks (only three break the three-minute mark and only one of those by more than a handful of seconds), and yes, the melodies will be familiar to those of you with any of the previous platters. With most numbers paced at a mid-tempo her guitar playing shows a malleability and skill that previously might have been obscured under the buzzsaw. Some of this might be a consequence of how this album was recorded: It says here that the drums were done in a studio with everything else down in Kim’s kitchen, which implies a piecemeal process.

Two classic Muffs slices are A Little Luxury and the title cut. Both are similarly styled rockers driven by chugging rhythms. The former features a guttural vocal from Kim while in the latter she shifts in part to an adenoidal tone with sliding syllables that flashes Melanie (Safka not Vammen). Both feature sweet little guitar solos, and the most gossamer of backing harmonies. With My Awful Dream Kim throws the big change-up: A spare, sweet, yet forlorn ballad with just the backing of picked, ringing guitar(s) and tambourine behind her unadorned voice which is replaced in the instrumental break by a Dylanesque harmonica. The slider, low and away, is Don’t Pick On Me, a modified oompah rhythm with a scarified vocal that follows the ups and downs of the rhythm pattern. While right down in the sweet spot is How I Pass The Time, a mid-tempo number with maximum vocal overlays and a simple yet succulent melody. Some days nothing beats home cooking.

[Released by Five Foot Two 2004]

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