Of all the gags perpetrated on the music-going public, none has had the staying power of the Mummies and their so-called “legacy.” It's been nearly 18 years since these clowns mercifully pulled the plug on themselves in what should have been the last act in their race to obscurity. Yet, here we are, in 2009, and the way people still talk about the Mummies, you'd think they were the second coming of the friggin' Beatles. With all the hosannas delivered since their demise, not to mention the excitement surrounding their recent resurrection, you might believe that some important body of work was left behind for the benefit of all, a music statement that declared, “Greatness Was Here!”
And that is where you would be mistaken. Truth is, the Mummies were an outfit of social leftovers. They made horrible recordings on even more horrible equipment, and then had the nerve to charge people for them. Take a listen to their only proper album, 1992's Never Been Caught, and marvel at how 17 songs could sound so much like one moronic blast of ugliness. It was so perverse it bordered on brilliant, in a juvenile gesture kind of way.
As for those “legendary” live shows? Look on YouTube, and you'll find four contrary nitwits entreating the audience between songs to “Shut up,” “Get off the stage,” or “Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!” Turns out the Mummies harbored nothing but disdain for the entire musicmaking process. And they didn't mind being complete dicks about it, either.
“When you see a Mummies show, you are paying for the privilege of watching us amuse ourselves,” bassist Maz Kattuah says. “The Mummies find each other entertaining. We stopped [playing] when we stopped being entertaining to one another.”
Which brings us to a salient point. If the Mummies deserve credit for anything, it's for walking away at the very height of their “craze,” when up to 75 people would cram themselves into some shithole to watch four guys wrapped in bandages act out fart jokes. They came, they gave everyone the finger, and then they went away.
Only they didn't. Like some kind of real Mummies' Curse, the outfit gained a posthumous reputation for being the greatest thing since electrified sound. Tales grew into fables, fables became legend, and somehow, the belligerence that was the Mummies' hallmark was morphed by the collective consciousness into unencumbered greatness. And four geeks became the undisputed avatars of garage-rock cool.
But even misanthropes have limits. And so, after years of complete silence, the band decided to don its rags and remind the world of the lesson we've forgotten: It was all a joke. The Mummies don't give a shit. Never have. Never will. The fact that almost everyone missed this makes the reunion even more delicious. A whole new generation is about to be told to kindly go fuck itself. Spain found out the ugly truth recently, as did a good hunk of the Eastern seaboard. San Francisco will get its turn this weekend.
“The Mummies are back because of the Internet and all the stories of how great we were,” Maz sniffs. “So we felt the need to set 'em straight!”
“It is fun to play these shows and watch the confusion and disappointment on people's faces,” singer Trent Ruane adds. “Most people still don't seem to get it. For instance, we [recently] played and sounded like shit, and people still say, 'They were great! Much better than the record!' Wow.”
Wow is right. But maybe that's part two of the curse. Just as garage hipsters will forever hold the misguided belief that the Mummies mattered, the Mummies are doomed to be loved and honored for their breathtaking idiocy, despite their best intentions to alienate everyone.
In the end, everybody got screwed. And that's the best joke of all.
Sidebar: More Budget Rock picks by John O'Neill.