Something is wrong with society when the most impish bands of the '90s start making resonant social statements. But on Under a Billion Suns, Mudhoney seems more vexed and pissed than Green Day or NOFX. Partly, it's the sound: Oxidized slabs of guitar psychedelia evoke messy times better than polished punk. Riffs cross like hot wires all over the album, girded by heavy groove, pierced by the still-feral-at-43 voice of Mark Arm, and punched with a horn section that sounds like a high school brass band cast specifically to underline the theme of American bombast. But Arm's words make as deep an impression. The middle-age wasteland anthem "Empty Shells" manages both sympathy and disgust, while "Where Is the Future" makes you feel supremely ripped off by the dual promise of sci-fi and the Space Race. "Hard-On for War," as simplistic as the title seems, asserts the sexual dynamics of war-making more convincingly than anything since the Dead Kennedys -- a feat in general, but perhaps especially for the man best known for "Touch Me I'm Sick."


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