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Bob Mould – [Album]

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Sunday, 29 March 2009

When Bob Mould resurfaced after a three-year silence with District Line, he shocked the hell out of Hüsker Dü fans by singlehandedly recapturing the magic that he, Grant Hart and Greg Norton once wielded so powerfully twenty years before. The songs brimmed with urgency, anthemia and heart, the vintage power pop hooks in songs like “Stupid Now,” “Old Highs, New Lows” and “Very Temporary” were sound and the record as a whole bore no age in spite of the fact that no one had heard something so potent from the singer/guitarist in years – in many ways, with District Line, Bob Mould made it feel like 1984 again for about forty minutes.

With the surprise of that album subsided now though, Mould has expanded back past the raw rock energy of the Dü and Life And Times finds him trying to reconcile both the demons of age (the guitarist will be forty-nine this year) as well as the path he's left burned behind him. Overall, the results are only a hair less volatile – no track on Life And Times charges as hard as the weakest on District Line – but that fact is compensated for by a healthy dose of self-reflection and the candor of that is engrossing from the get-go.

In one way or another, the concepts of time, age and emotional injury dominate the album as, from the opening acoustic plunge of “Life And Times,” Mould takes stock of time misspent with people that didn't deserve it (“Why'd you have to come around and turn my whole world upside down?” the singer sneers, indicting the individual on the other side of a failed relationship. “You don't even know what you're doing”) and angrily dismisses his would-be transgressors. It's tough, confrontational talk from this most classically heart-on-his-sleeve singer, except that at least a portion of it is a front; Mould's attachments to his subjects here still remain and, as much as he might want to, Mould can't let them go.

Mould's obstinate refusal to reconcile and move past all of those regrets continues through tellingly entitled songs like “City Lights (Days Go By),” “Bad Blood Better,” “Spiraling Down” and “I'm Sorry Baby, But You Can't Stand In My Light Anymore” but, rather than put the accelerator on the floor and burn through these obviously uncomfortable sentiments, the tempo of these songs is often diminished – as fi Mould is deliberately indulging some masochistic desire to relive, inhabit and examine each at length and for as long as possible.

All of these examinations need some kind of resolution of course, but even as the synth and music box coloured “Lifetime” (which sounds eerily like a Cure song) grinds its way along to close the record, it becomes obvious that Mould is no further ahead than he was when he started; those demons and insecurities are not yet expunged.

At the end of the day, that's still just fine – Mould has always been at his best when he's got something on his mind that he can't work through (check Workbook if you're skeptical) and songs including “Argos,” “Wasted World” and “Bad Blood Better” keep to that tradition handily, but the problems arise when Life And Times simply becomes to laden and indulgent which happens a few times too many here. The album isn't bad, but it could be better and only feels like a letdown if a given listener was really taken with District Line.

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Life And Times will be released on March 7, 2009. Pre-order your copy here at Amazon .

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Bob Mould – [Album]

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Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Twenty-nine years ago, Bob Mould—along with Grant Hart and Greg Norton—helped change the modern-rock landscape and laid the groundwork that everyone from Nirvana to Green Day and more would tread upon—and make history with—in Husker Du. When that band fell apart in 1987, Mould bounced back almost immediately, both with Sugar and as a solo artist. It’s an imposing body of work—no doubt—and now at 47 years old Mould is regularly saddled with descriptors like “living legend” and “trailblazer.” The double-edged sword of such terms is, of course, that a “living legend” bears the implication of an individual content to rest on the laurels of an established catalogue and “trailblazer” implies that said path has run its course and that the trail has been etched. As District Line attests, however, neither is true in the case of Bob Mould.

The guitarist’s solo album for Anti is a return to form of sorts as far as District Line incorporating elements of Husker and Sugar but also extrapolating those things beyond their original powers. That said, Mould isn’t trying to fool himself here; he isn’t going through a mid-life crisis and even acknowledges his age in “Return To Dust” when he belts “Growing old it’s hard to be an angry young man,” so it stands to reason that what the album represents is a conscious effort to continue forward with a couple of looks back (like “Old Highs and New Lows”) to mark the difference. In songs like “Again and Again,” the guitarist reflects upon and accepts his age and iconic status (the “It began sometime last week, the feeling that most everything was changing—for the worse/ All the triggers pulled at once and so begins my ugly fall from grace” is just a sample) while elsewhere, as on “The Silence Between Us,” he turns up not to rage against those things so much as simply ignore them and just rock like a beast because it’s what he loves to do and knows best. District Line is not an attempt to reclaim old glories because even Mould knows that he hasn’t lost anything; rather, he has connected all of the dots in his career and come up with something honest, unafraid and career-defining.

District Line is out February 5, 2008 on Anti.

More on Bob Mould here: www.bobmould.com  

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