Here’s an embarrassing story for you all. As a precocious child who had just started stringing three chords together on my first electric guitar, I remember having a dream that I’d started a band that was destined to return grunge music to its rightful place as the king of genres. In this imaginary, post-Nirvana future, I was going to be the one to remind people of the power of loud music and rescue them from their addiction to saleable, saccharine swill. Skip a few years down the track and it seems people never really forgot it in the first place. Kids still come into my place of employ with White Zombie patches on their army disposal store backpacks and bands like Violent Soho ignite mosh pits every time they spew forth an impassioned, ‘Hell, fuck yeah’. The effect that the early 90’s Seattle music scene had on the world is so lasting and profound that some thirty years later a Danish company sees fit to produce a pedal dedicated to one of its chief proponents.
Led by the charmingly wayward Mark Arm, Mudhoney were one of the first of a crop of bands to eschew the spandex cliché of rock in the 80’s in favour of a more earnest, if deliberately turbulent style. Hefty riffage soaked in distortion set the tone for Arm and his contemporaries and the familiar, yellow stomp box at their feet became the must-have tool for anyone trying to walk in their footsteps. T-Rex Engineering took those ideas as gospel a number of years ago with their first generation of distortion pedals, but in the Mudhoney II they have broadened the dynamic possibilities even further.
Distortion is one of the less complicated items on the pedal menu. It is designed to wrap entirely around every note you play and soak it in sonic hot sauce. However, some are more flexible than others and while the controls on the Mudhoney II seem standard enough, they offer you a much broader palette than most of the competition. Both sides of this particular coin offer the same options; volume, gain and tone pots as well as a boost switch that takes you from ‘OK’ to ‘hell yeah’. The idea then is to have the two sides set to different personalities in order to get the full range of emotion out of this unit. With the switch set to Normal and the gain down low you have a deep, buttery, tube-like break up that would work well as a boost or as an always-on colour enhancer. Flick over to Boost and the harmonically rich clip is as searing as Kurt was in full flight.
The real fun happens when you think of this pedal in context. Sure it’s fun to find any number of hot dirt sounds, but the trick is to pick two that not only match each other but also enhance the dynamic shift over the course of a song. This could mean you use it as a loud/louder one-two-punch, or be the kind of thing you use to delineate your Jekyll from your Hyde. Where most distortion pedals lean into the fact that they are there to do one job, T-Rex know that this is not enough for most players and present a pedal with as rich a spectrum of moods as you yourself have written into your songs.
Hits and Misses
Harmonically rich and captivating gain
One channel at a time means tone stacking is limited