Kim Shattuck started the Muffs with Melanie Vammen in Los Angeles in 1991. They were fresh out of a metal-ish act called Pandora. In the next couple of years they would generate enough buzz as a pop-punk quartet to hook up a major record deal. Some rock critics will minimize this event by saying that grunge inadvertently facilitated the deal for the Muffs. Perhaps they are correct. Consider that at the time all the majors were in a frenzy to sign the next Nirvana. How else to otherwise explain such big-money attention lavished on a band as plainly derivative as the Muffs? Shattuck and Vammen were schooled by the bigger bands of their era — such hotness as the Pixies or the Ramones, who were in turn influenced by the Beatles and Television and the New York Dolls. But in the end, all roads lead back to the Kinks. They always do.
One could argue that the Muffs’ Blonder and Blonder and Happy Birthday to Me (both on Reprise) are among their best. Money has to be a factor, because it buys more time in better studios. But then again, did the label see something of value in the band that was not obvious? The fact that the Muffs are still around suggests they did. Shattuck’s high-school lyrics hold a certain outsider appeal: “You lied to me now/ I can hear you say/ You’re a dick, you’re a dick/ And I could care less.” And her pop hooks have fanned the flames for a rash of other indie bands, such as the Queers, who publicly adore them. A homemade band, and not so much better than the neighbor kids’ garage-rock band, hence the charm. Five-chord rock and roll, once again made as attainable as it was for so many of us during the 1960s.
Dirty Sirens and Octa#grape also perform.
The Muffs: Soda Bar, Sunday, March 3, 8:30 p.m. 619-255-7224. $10