Aside from the obvious reasons, who really knows why artists remaster and reissue their albums? Celebrating a 15 or 20 or another neatly-numbered anniversary makes sense. So does fixing perceived (or real) engineering and mixing errors and providing bonus tracks for diehard fans. But otherwise, why do it? The Muffs have remastered and reissued their first album-22 years after its debut. The California-based pop punkers were like a lot of bands that rode in on the early ’90s alternative rock wave, courtesy of a major-label deal. Sure, the band had brief glimpses of fame with their cover of “Kids in America” included on the million-selling Clueless soundtrack or their music video for “Sad Tomorrow” played on MTV’s 120 Minutes or “Everywhere I Go” featured in a commercial for the now-defunct Fruitopia beverage.
However, the Muffs’ relationship to Green Day is the most interesting. As the story goes, that other California-based pop punk band was so impressed with new producer Rob Cavallo’s work on the Muffs’ debut that they had him produce their third studio album. As we all know, Dookie was a worldwide smash that sent Green Day into the stratosphere. Beyond the tangential relationship-and later friendship-the Muffs and recent Rock-and-Roll-Hall-of-Fame-inductees Green Day have a lot in common. Frontwoman Kim Shattuck’s undeniable knack for crafting super catchy, melodic, bratty, slap-happy pop punk almost matches Billie Joe Armstrong’s. Almost. For that, and other debatable reasons, the Muffs were essentially a footnote in the annals of alternative rock. And that’s unfortunate.
After helming the bass for the all-girl ’60s-throwback garage-rock group, the Pandoras, Kim Shattuck and keyboard player Melanie Vammen switched to guitars to form the Muffs with bassist Ronnie Barnett and drummer Criss Crass. This lineup only lasted the first album (Shattuck and Barnett were later joined by drummer Roy McDonald for the next five Muffs albums). Shattuck’s snotty vocals and occasional screams blend into 16 infectious tracks on the self-titled debut. Even when the formula wears thin, like the strummy riff of the third track (and future Fruitopia TV ad) “Everywhere I Go” being too similar to the fourteenth track, “Eye to Eye,” the album is enjoyable. And, The Muffs features a couple interesting cameos, like the Godfather of Exotica Korla Pandit playing a Middle Eastern organ riff in the beginning of “From Your Girl” and Jon Spencer providing buzzing distortion with a theremin on the hard-rocking “I Need You.” And, of course, there’s the Angry Samoans cover, “Stupid Jerk.” The 31-second sludgy stomp features Barnett taking sole vocal duties to sound like Kermit the Frog crossed with Lemmy Kilmister.
While the remaster has leveled out the track-to-track sound variations of the initial album, Shattuck’s perpetually bratty vocals remain intact. After listening to The Muffs, one could conclude that Shattuck’s singing is an affectation. After all, she was just out of her twenties at the time. However, the four-track demos show otherwise. Shattuck’s disaffected alto sounds almost sincere on the jaunty “Not Like Me” compared to its raspy, slowed-down demo. In addition to the eight previously-unreleased demos, the remastered edition includes a radio remix of “Lucky Guy” and a cassette version of “Everywhere I Go.” A glossy booklet contains photos, ephemera, new liner notes by Barnett, and a track-by-track explanation by Shattuck. The frontwoman explains how many of the songs are about Barnett, who she dated for three years ending the year before The Muffs was released. (Perhaps that explains the vocals.) Other songs address topics like arrogant people (“Better than Me”), weirdos (“Another Day”), and the like. Written about a town gossip, Shattuck kicks off the second half of The Muffs by sneering “I don’t like you/ and I won’t pretend to!” in the opening of the bouncy “Big Mouth.” While surprisingly endearing, the remastered The Muffs likely won’t attract new fans, but who needs a reason to reissue an album anyway?