Mule – s/t (1992) / If I Don’t Six (1994)

Posted: October 15, 2010 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

In the early 1990’s, the grunge genre saw a major influx in popularity due to the successes of bands such as Nirvana ,Pearl Jam, and Alice In Chains. The mainstream appeal of those acts were likely due to the straightforward accessibility of their sounds. This prompted major label a&r guys to scour the land looking for bands that would have an alternative enough sound to be cutting edge but still have the ability to fit into the preconceived niche that the corporations had set. While some quirky and truly innovative bands did enjoy some relative success (Shudder To Think and Royal Trux come to mind), the only bands that were really given any sort of major label pushes were Nirvana or Pearl Jam clones. Needless to say, the strategy’s long term results were pathetic. Anyone who would browse the cutouts section or the dollar bins of  the big chain record stores during the late 90’s would see the casualties of the failed grunge push.

Anyhow, the preface does have a point . Mule was a sadly short lived trio from Detroit that formed right around the time Nirvana’s Nevermind blew up. Formed out of the ashes of the popular Laughing Hyenas and the lesser known Wig, the band self released their first single , I’m Hell ” and “Tennessee Hustler” in 1992. The same year saw the release of their self titled first LP on Quarterstick Records. Produced by infamous Chicago area noise/punk producer Steve Albini, the album presented a rather fresh sound. Although having their feet planted in grunge/noise roots, the band seamlessly integrated elements of a diverse range of musical stylings into the songs. Singer/guitarist PW Long’s vocals and guitar leads showcased a strong blues influence while the rhythm section of  Kevin Munto (bass) and Jim Kimball (drums) often displayed their versatility in the styles of jazz, blues, and rock and roll.  The band’s unique sound led to a dedicated underground following. But, as mentioned above, that sound  didn’t offer the convenient pigeonhole the mainstream demanded .

As the decade reached its midpoint, the popular “alternative” music landscape had experience a vast transition. Two historical events during the year 1994  proved to act as dual catalysts to this transition. On February 1st, the Bay Area band Green Day released their first major label album, Dookie. And on April 5th, Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain died from a gunshot wound to the head. These two dates created the aforementioned transition from “grunge” to “punk” in terms of what the majors began to push onto the mainstream as alternative music.

Also in that fateful year, Mule recorded and released their second album. If I Don’t Six was released on Quarterstick on September 19th, 1994. Indifferent to the changing trends in the mainstream music scene, the album was the band’s crown jewel. Although the diversity was still as present as ever, the album showcased the band’s brilliance in tieing all those influences together as a perfectly cohesive unit.  Long’s vocals are able to create a mood, whether it be through a whisper or scream. The band’s hard hitting and reckless abandon on songs such as Hayride and x29 exhibit the bands punk side while Obion could have been the best song the Black Crowes had ever written if they weren’t dirty hippies. And then you have the utterly amazing Nowhere’s Back, which builds up sparse and nervous tension for five minutes before letting is burst for the last one. But the best song on this flawless album, if I had to pick one, is A Hundred Years. To describe this song would be too difficult. It’s one of those songs you just have to feel to get it. But I will say this – it is a break up song and it is quite possibly the saddest and the most gritty break up song ever written.

Anyways, the story of Mule has a sad ending. The band broke up shortly after the release of If I Don’t Six after just 4 years in existence. One wonders if Mule’s lifespan would have been longer if the major label assholes knew what they were doing in 1992. But then again, when do the major label assholes ever know what they’re doing. 

The Mule story though isn’t completely a tragic one. PW Long continues to release music to this day and it most certainly continues in the traditions his old band set forth.

Here is a rare video of Mule performing A Hundred Years in 1995 and a video of Crazy Tonight off of PW Long’s album God Bless The Drunkard’s Dog (2007). And those are followed by Mule’s 2 amazing LPs.

Mule – s/t (1992)

Mule- If I Don’t Six (1994)

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