“I Sceam My Fool Head Off”
Kim Shattuck, RIP
by Laura Pontillo
As most of us have seen, the Muff’s co-founder and frontwoman Kim Shattuck died at age 56. On October 2, 2019, Shattuck’s husband, Kevin Sutherland, posted to his private Instagram account, “This morning, the love of my life passed peacefully in her sleep after a two-year struggle with ALS.” Former bandmate Melanie Vammen re-posted the story and the Muffs’ Ronnie Barnett and Roy McDonald shared a statement on Facebook. The tragic news was confirmed by the Muffs’ current record label, Omnivore Recordings. Shattuck did not make public her diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, an incurable progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects the muscles.
Perhaps that’s fitting. By all accounts, ALS is fucking awful. Shattuck’s persona always seemed to execute positivity, even in the ’90s when that wasn’t necessarily ‘cool’. While Shattuck is best known for her excellent work helming the Muffs, she also played bass in the garage-rock psychedelic throwbacks the Pandoras in the 1980s. While screeching your pain in your lyrics was common in the grunge-era ’90s, Shattuck’s scream was different. It was joyful and bratty, not self-pitying. And she employed her scream skillfully, not egregiously. There were flashes of her infamous wahhhhhaoooooo in the Muffs’ influential self-titled debut. Shattuck brought her affirming screams to the fore in Blonde and Blonder – the Muffs’ second record that was named after a snide remark by Courtney Love. In the liner notes of the re-mastered album, Shattuck succinctly states, “I scream my fool head off.”
But it wasn’t just Shattuck’s impressive vocals that hooked fans and fellow artists alike. Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong has long been a fan of the Muffs and noted in an Instagram post that his band listened to the Muffs constantly while recording what would be their breakthrough, Dookie. Veruca Salt posted their tribute on Twitter to a “brilliant pop songwriter” and “total punk-rock badass” with a sweet picture of singer-guitarist Nina Gordon with her arms around a yellow dress-clad Shattuck.
Despite this sad development, we have not heard the last of Shattuck. Barnett and McDonald’s statement notes that “Kim produced our last album, overseeing every part of the record from tracking to artwork.” The Muffs are scheduled to release their first album in five years. The 18-track No Holiday will be available October 18. ◼