Although The MudLarks! have only been playing together in this incarnation for the past six years, the band — which began life as the Go to Hells in 2010 and switched to its current moniker in 2012 — boasts an experiential timeline among its four members that, if viewed consecutively, would stretch back to a pre-Civil War calendar. Now that's entertainment.
The illustrious resumes that the individual MudLarks! — vocalist/guitarist T. Lothar Witt, guitarist/vocalist/keyboardist Jimmy Davidson, bassist/vocalist Bob "Lamb" Lambert, and drummer Max Cole — have accumulated collectively over the past four decades is a core sample of some of Greater Cincinnati's most infamous and well-regarded bands across a broad sonic spectrum, from the glistening Indie Rock of The Libertines (now with the legally appended “US” tagged on) and The Highwaymen, the Punk slash of The Reduced, The Headaches and The Rituals and the experimental howl of 11,000 Switches, Cointelpro and BPA, to the twisted Americana stomp of the Wolverton Brothers and the New Wave bounce of Blanco Nombre and the Babettes. Then there's the long distance listings of The Reducers, Ricky Barnes & the Hoot Owls and probably a few that the quartet has inadvertently or deliberately overlooked due to time, tide, roadburn and hangover.
And so The MudLarks! — complete with two capital letters in one word and a Hamiltonian exclamation point — have assembled like a grizzled, creaky yet still powerful Transformer of wildly disparate but somehow completely compatible influences to create their singular Indie Punk mash up of local, regional and national music history in 10 tracks and a little over 46 minutes. Not bad for a bunch of guys whose next tour could be sponsored by AARP.
The MudLarks!'s eponymous debut disc, released by New York's Ionik Recordings Company, who also released the latest Wolvertons EP, Liberty Hotel, last year, whipcracks to immediate life with opener "Help Us;" guitars spark and smoulder like vintage Neon Boys/Voidoids while Witt roars with the phlegm-choked outrage of Johnny Rotten in his Pistols-to-PIL transition. It's the perfect launching pad for The MudLarks!'s first studio foray, as the foursome careens madly from the Pere-Ubu-disguised-as-accessible-Indie-Rock-outfit chaos of "Red Window" to the late-'70s-English-Punk-translated-to-downtown-NYC swagger of "Dirty Things" to the irresistible Iggy-Pop-James-Williamson tag-team cage squall of "You Love You."
The MudLarks! are equally adept at slowing down the pace when necessary. "Mea Culpa" drops tempo while maintaining a booted throat intensity and volume, "Losing Track" sounds like a Crazy Horse demo from Danny Whitten's lost heroin weekend sessions and "Love Has the Power" sways and pulses like The Dictators ballad that Handsome Dick Manitoba and his boys never attempted. And the album closes with the majestic "Sunrise," a towering five-and-a-half minute Punk anthem that somehow manages to corral all of the madness preceding it and herd it into a set-ending finale that explodes with the beautiful fury and smoke that typically accompanies a Rozzi fireworks display.
The reason The MudLarks! are able to tap into all these various power sources and not overload the system is not because they're simply familiar with their schematics, it's because they've lived with them so intimately for so long. They understand the nuts and bolts of every genre they've played, separately and together, over the past 40 years and they know perfectly well which parts are interchangeable and will ultimately provide the best performance. Witt and Davidson trade snarling guitar licks like Babe Ruth and Shoeless Joe Jackson playing catch by smashing the ball back and forth to each other from bat to bat, while Lamb and Cole maintain an adaptable rhythm that they can easily shift from slow boulevard cruise to hyperspace warp jump in the blink of a bloodshot eye.
There has been plenty of concrete evidence within our own music scene lately to prove that age does not equal obsolescence — witness the triumphant returns of the Warsaw Falcons and Ass Ponys — and The MudLarks! are yet another sterling example of an assertion that author P.J. O'Rourke made 20 years ago in the title of his 1995 essay collection; Age and Guile Beat Youth, Innocence and a Bad Haircut.