Muddy Bug

Yet another bribery review

City Girls - Muddy Bug Press 2001.
Rating = 5

Iím not here to hurt anybodyís feelings. The deal is simply this: if you have recorded something(s) and you would like me to review it, simply send your musical creation(s) to me along with $4, and I will send you a Mark Prindle CD and post a review of your album(s). But you understand that Iím only one man and my opinion is only my opinion. So if I donít give your album a high grade, donít freak out and call me an asshole. Because Iím not going to lie and say I like it. I will try to pick out the good points and also detail the bad points. Which is more than I do in MOST of my reviews, so you should feel charmed, Iím sure!

Which leads us to Muddy Bug. Ahh sweet sweet Muddy Bug. Muddy Bug is a duo from Tucson, AZ (where Iím getting married!) made up of Keith Turausky (guitars, bass) and Eric Stevens (guitars, bass, drums, vocals). Keith is the fellow that sent me the disc and he seems really nice. He also seems, both in his liner notes and in the photo on the inside, to be overly praising of Eric, which bothers me for one key reason: Ericís vocal delivery ruins the entire CD for me. There is a lot of beautiful guitar interplay on here (Keith lists his influences as Blur, Weezer, The Kinks, the Posies, Radiohead and REM), but Eric, god bless his soul, seems to be going way out of his way to make every song sound like Pavement. If itís by accident, I apologize for the accusation, but the guy does a TOTAL Malkmus from beginning to end: the out-of-tune yells, cocky donít-give-a-shit voice cracking (as if amateurishness is a virtue), uneventful vocal melodies and even the way he delivers the words themselves, over-enunciating certain syllables while letting his voice waver from cracky sing to drunken talk. I in all honesty only like his voice in one song - ďGrenadine.Ē Itís a lovely song with an understated, NORMAL vocal delivery.

Now that Iíve got the complaining out of the way, let me go back to focusing on how lovely and well-played the guitar interplay is. Yes, itís reminiscent of Pavement but that might just be because the voice leads your thoughts in that direction; a more tuneful singer might very well have made it sound like lighter-flavored Fugazi or some such. Both of them seem to play very well, whether doing the dipsy-doodle fun rock thing (ďSheís Running The ShowĒ and the hilarious ď2 Hot 4 PantsĒ) or letting their notes intertwine into a gorgeous vine of jangle-leaves (ďGrenadine,Ē ďThe Radio,Ē a couple others). In addition, a family friend adds in an uproariously appropriate (and well-played!) old-timey-style piano rag to the otherwise beyond-irritating ďSpecial PlacesĒ (god, those vocals, oh you have no idea).

See, I donít mind so much if bands have inspiration, as long as they FURTHER that inspiration into a new creature. But so far, it doesnít seem like Muddy Bug have done this. No matter how talented the band are at playing guitars, City Girls sounds like an album made by a Pavement rip-off band. And if this is an accident, itís a pretty strange accident, because itís not just me saying this. My fiancee was darn near DISGUSTED by the similarities. So I hope that this review is either taken as constructive criticism or simply ignored, because I donít want to piss Keith off here. I just want to suggest that Eric try to step away from the shadow of Steve Malkmus and work on developing his own individual (more melodic) singing style to better complement the excellent guitarwork and nice melodies that these guys are capable of creating.

Keith ordered all THREE of my solo CDs, by the way, so expect some really negative reviews from him soon. :7(

Reader Comments (Keith Turausky)
Come on now, Mark, I wouldn't do ya like that!

I submitted my record for your appraisal because you've earned my trust and respect---and if, on your scale, our album is even half as good as *Lifes Rich Pageant*, hey, I ain't complainin' (and for the record, I bought all three of your discs not so much as bribery as because it still adds up to cheaper than a new disc---of far less music---by a "real" band).

Anyhow, yes, believe it or not, neither one of us listens to Pavement. You're not the first person to note the Malkmus thing (though you are the most virulently opposed). But it is, as much as is possible in a world where everyone's heard at least a couple Pavement songs, "an accident" (Eric liked the late-era single "Spit on a Stranger" when his girlfriend played it for him, but only just a few weeks ago decided to see what Malkmus was all about by buying his new solo record, which he---perhaps not surprisingly---enjoyed quite a bit).

The weird thing about Eric is that he doesn't really listen to much rock music at all. I'm not going to say I've got a collection or knowledge base nearly as broad as some of the people on here, but Eric is actually one of those guys who listens to like 5 or 6 rock acts and that's it (most of which are listed among the "Keith's influences" bands above, although I should point out that I am no big Radiohead fan [I just tried to rip them off once and failed] and Eric doesn't like the Posies).

Eric's a classical guitar guy, for whatever that means. But he really is pretty insular when it comes to the rock and roll---and I can tell you for sure he wasn't spinning Pavement discs at any time during the writing or recording of our album. Eric is the one who got me into Beck, though, and as far as I can tell, Beck is the true inspiration for his vocal stylings.

So I don't know if your opinion would go up a bit if you considered us a strange case of parallel evolution instead of a Pavement rip-off band. But I certainly enjoyed your "lighter-flavored Fugazi" comment---that's exactly what I had in mind when I left my pop-punk college band and began Muddy Bug (my ambitious thought being that I could "do for pop punk what Fugazi did for hardcore"). Your ability to absolutely nail something like that is why I will always respect your critical opinion, even if it looks disfavorably upon my own band (though I'm quite relieved you at least found the music captivating).

In other words, don't think for a second that I'm just going to be a dickhole and turn on you because you don't like the way Eric sings. That would be shamefully immature... I'm actually more offended by your suspicion that I would "freak out" than by the so-so grade---but I know you deal with a lot of reactionary idiots on this site, so I won't take that personally either. You're still my Prind! Come here! Give me a hug!

Seriously, if you need an annoyingly-reminiscent-of-Pavement band to play at your wedding, by all means, drop me a line! (By the way, what brings you two to Tucson anyway?) And, of course, if anybody else out there wants to know what Prindle's upset about, just write to

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