Written, arranged and recorded during a sixteen-day blowout at the Shack (as stated on the inner sleeve), Uh-huh proves that spontaneity often wins out over endless production tinkering. Stepping away from the shadow of those great soul searchers Seger and Springsteen, Mellencamp has opted for a lean, slightly distorted rec-room sound, and while the lyrics may be shot through with big questions and ponderings, the prime directive is momentum. Sensibility, not sense, matters on such songs as “Crumblin’ Down,” with its mean guitar strut, and “Authority Song,” in which a rollicking melody seems to mock Mellencamp’s dialogue with a preacher.
What sustains Uh-huh is Mellencamp’s cat-burglar adroitness for pinching fretboard riffs and song stylings from a wealth of primal rock & roll sources. “Serious Business” is a first-class Rolling Stones tribute, while “Lovin’ Mother Fo Ya,” with its tribal drum-and-vocal chanting and grinding bluesguitar chords, recalls such gin-soaked rockers as George Thorogood. But the humor and untamed spirit of Un-huh is best captured in “Play Guitar,” in which Mellencamp matter of factly declares, “If you really want to taste some cool success/You better learn to play guitar,” whereupon axe wielders Larry Crane and Mike Wanchic play fast and loose with the climactic chords from “Gloria.”
“Uh-Huh” does grow a mite tedious with all the Bible-story imagery that’s littered about: Mellencamp goes up the mountain, gets nailed to the cross, sleeps with the devil and somehow survives it all. Still, this collection of brash, full-throttle rockers can only leave one impressed by what can be accomplished in sixteen days.