Blonder and Blonder
“I scream my fool head off” says singer-songwriter-guitarist Kim Shattuck of The Muffs’ second album. Well, she did a lot more than that. Like many pop-punk ’90s bands, the zeitgeist was good to the Muffs. After all, Blonder and Blonder was their best-selling album. Well, save for the platinum-selling Clueless soundtrack in which the Muffs contributed a sped-up cover of “Kids in America.” Unlike many ’90s bands, the Muffs were not faux-ashamed of fame. In fact, it seems they did their best to court it. Essays by then-new drummer Roy McDonald and longtime bassist Ronnie Barnett confirm that in the new liner notes of the reissued and expanded Blonder and Blonder – 21 years after its initial release. Barnett expounds on the Muffs’ personal and professional relationship with Green Day and how sharing staff was mutually beneficial. According to Barnett, that other pop-punk band co-opted the Muffs’ management, lawyer, booking agent, and the like. Doing so allowed the Muffs to hitch their wagon to Green Day’s promotion machine.
While the increased money and publicity helped the Muffs, so did internal changes. The Muffs went from a four-piece to a trio. Both McDonald and Barnett do not provide details on guitarist Melanie Vammen’s departure. McDonald does explain his own entrance into the band, which worked in the Muffs’ favor. His dynamic style and the absence of a lead guitarist better suited the Muffs’ taut, high-energy jams on Blonder and Blonder. Rob Cavallo’s production (a year after his work on Green Day’s landmark Dookie and two years after his work on The Muffs) brought sheen to Shattuck’s catchy, melodic songs. If nothing else, the twangy demo version of “Red Eyed Troll” and the circus-y demo of “Won’t Come Out to Play” exemplify Cavallo’s skill in polishing catchy ditties into infectious, fleshed-out songs on Blonder and Blonder.
Like 2015’s reissue of The Muffs, the expanded liner notes include photo outtakes, memorabilia, and track-by-track commentary from Shattuck. It’s interesting how Shattuck was able to distill disparate influences like “scary band” The Cows (“Oh Nina”) and the ’60s group Freddie & the Dreamers (“On and On”) into her brand of super-catchy pop-punk. Seven bonus tracks complete the Blonder and Blonder reissue. The U.K. B-sides of the thumping “Goodnight Now” and the solid riffing of “Become Undone” are as strong as any song on Blonder and Blonder. The remaining previously unissued Shattuck demos showcase the beginning stages of her songwriting prowess.
Regarding Blonder and Blonder, Barnett answers the obvious question in his essay. Apparently, Courtney Love scoffed “blonder and blonder” in response to Shattuck’s newly-bleached hair at a show in May 1994. Talk about courting fame. No matter. It’s fun to revisit the songs that made Blonder and Blonder so charming in the first place.