In 2021, few bands embody the essence of punk rock the way that Mush does. Many of their contemporaries are concerned with performative apathy or blatant aesthetic references to their famed predecessors, but it's rare to find a bunch as recklessly obsessed with raw and visceral energy as this band. Their modern take on hardcore is as calculated as it is unhinged, offering multiple dimensions of enjoyability that leave novice listeners blindly entertained and experienced music nerds scrambling to find a point of reference. To try to get to the bottom of things, EARMILK was lucky enough to chat with lead singer Dan Hyndman ahead of the release of Mush's new album, Lines Redacted, which is out now.
The joy of listening, of course, is that there is no singular point of reference to be found for the Leeds trio. There are traces of art-rock history of course; Hyndman cited Television, Pavement, Sonic Youth, and Wire, noting that "we're pretty basic, usual guitar band dinosaurs." But ultimately, their imagery, aesthetics, and sonic directions are an amalgamation, a melting pot, a mush. I'm not sure what it is, but it's a blast to listen to. Frontman Dan Hyndman summarized this point better than me when asked about what exact type of music his outfit makes, "All the genres are secretly the same."
As one might imagine for a sound as daring as Mush's, the genesis was a bit off-script. "Me, Ty and Nick all moved in together after Uni. We were all living in different cities but I dragged them to Leeds with the aim of making a Pavement rip-off type band. Somehow it ended being a noise rock band and all three of us played guitar, so it sounded nothing like it does now. We kind of flopped out onto the music scene before we had worked out what we were doing. It was a slow progression to the sound it is now." The recollection from Hyndman makes sense; the sound and energy of Mush today could not have been planned in advance.
A key element of this fleetingly raucous power that the band delivers is due largely in part to the wild vocal performances that Dan Hyndman brings to the table. Think conversational mania of Frank Black meets mad scientist eccentricities of Jello Biafra. This is best exemplified on "Blunt Instruments," the first single from Lines Redacted that dropped last November. We hear matter-of-fact exclamations from the frontman that come off as speaking in tongues. As is expected, Dan's incredible charisma on the mic kind of just happened. "I can’t sing and I never really wanted to. I started out trying to impersonate other people and did a really shit job. Then I was doing an impersonation of that impersonation. Then it just ended up where it is now. I think I kind of toned it down on this record though, as in it’s fractionally more comprehensible." This unpredictability is all a part of the experience. Where Dan's vocal part keeps you guessing, his stellar backing instrumentation will fill in the gaps.
Mush is incredibly tight and cohesive on Lines Redacted, their latest full-length record that comes backed with a series of increasingly compelling singles. Improving technically and stylistically from their previous effort 3D Routine, the band delivers a cutting edge punk sound that is the true sum of its parts, confident and rehearsed as ever. Songs like the woozy opener "Dink the Bleach" show a guitar lick that is just as slurred and wacky as the vocal work. There's also the chopped-up, glitchy jam "Positivity," where the band channels a charmingly sarcastic flair. Hyndman elaborated, "I think we all feel more of a sense of pride around this record. Mostly because we worked a lot harder. I think we were more meticulous and I think the break from the live circuit let us refocus on what we actually love as opposed to what works well live."
If there's anything this band does well, it's sticking to their guns. They're ruthlessly and unapologetically themselves all over Lines Redacted, an approach that only plays to their advantage. Tracks like "Hazmat Suits," which features an abrasive and abrupt mid-track breakdown that could only be pulled off with a special all-in Mush attitude. Dan Hyndman and company truly own their sound, "Nothing is going to change the fact most that of our influences are from decades ago and that we're four white dudes in a typical guitar band set up. That being said, we're obsessed with this stuff, and I think there's sincerity of intention and genuine spirit of experimentation to it. We judge ourselves against the best, we’re not there yet but there's still time."
This approach to punk will always prevail, no matter what era. The chaotic altruism of Mush is enough to get them through to the inevitable next phase of their career, but they have a wealth of talent and creative intuition just in case.