Read: Bob Mould’s Autobiography


See a Little Light:
The Trail of Rage and Melody, published by Little, Brown and Company, not only
fills in the gaps about the Husker Du frontman’s story, it provides a
heretofore unglimpsed view of the mind behind the music.


By Sam Baltes

While most musicians get eclipsed by the shadow of their
youth, Bob Mould is anomalous. With a résumé that includes co-founding the
seminal Husker Du, fronting Sugar, a critically lauded solo career, and serving
as a World Championship Wrestling scriptwriter, it’s clear that Mould disdains
stagnation, and this memoir (co-written with Michael Azerrad) attests to his
inexhaustible ability to produce compelling material.   


While Mould’s abysmal youth is no secret, getting the story
from the source provides a better understanding of the man and the impetus
behind his music. Born in a rural New
York town under the roof of a capricious alcoholic,
Mould learned early on to be “Hyper-vigilant” — this entailed maintaining
constant focus on every variable in his environment. A self-described “golden
child” with an aptitude for numbers, he was the mortar of his family structure,
and strove to extinguish altercations before they conflagrated into domestic
violence. At one point in his childhood, Mould was sexually abused by a
babysitter, and he ascribes this as a partial catalyst behind the emotional
problems that afflicted him later in life. As Mould progressed into adolescence
he became aware of his homosexuality and developed a love for punk rock/booze.
These advents led to social alienation, and after learning that a gay
schoolmate was disemboweled and hung from a tree in a nearby forest, Mould
became obsessed with desire to “get out of this place.” After leaving his
hometown to attend college in Minneapolis,
Mould was consumed by depression and anger, and when meeting two individuals
who shared his musical tastes, he formed a band in which he was able to
articulate his frustrations.


Bob Mould is a name synonymous with Husker Du, and part of
the allure of this memoir is the prospect of a firsthand look at the band that
he shared with bassist Greg Norton and drummer Grant Hart. While there has been
no paucity of words devoted toward Husker in recent years, previous attempts at
chronicling the band’s history have been hindered by ambiguity concerning the
last days of the band. Seeing that Mould was at the band’s helm, his account is
concise and devoid of extrapolation. He describes with absolute clarity the
band’s metamorphosis from “bright white radio static” to a maelstrom of
apoplectic fury/melody, the drudgeries of touring (à la Get in the Van), and the eventual deterioration of the band
dynamic. Adding to Mould’s captivating narrative are anecdotal interactions
with other prominent musicians of the era (ex. Bad Brains crashing in Hart’s house only to smoke his stash and leave an
anti-gay note). Mould is also candid about his substance abuse during this
period, and describes himself as a “high-functioning alcoholic” during the
majority of his Husker years.


Although proud of his run with Husker, Mould isn’t
nostalgic. He describes it as an “eight-year ground war that started with me
and some guy smoking Thai stick in the basement of a record store.” He is fair
when chronicling his relationships with bandmates Hart and Norton, and avoids
resorting to the ad hominem when
voicing his beefs with the two. While only a third of the book is allotted to
the group, Mould gives a near panoptic history that fills in gaps left from the
Husker Du chapter in Azerrad’s earlier book, Our Band Could Be Your Life, as well as Andrew Earles’ recent Husker Du: The Story of the Noise-Pop
Pioneers Who Launched Modern Rock
. Seeing the band through Mould’s
perspective is illuminating, and his hitherto untold account of the group
dissolving in Hart’s kitchen with the latter’s mom suggesting to “only play on
weekends” dispels the fog surrounding the band’s finis.


There is more to Bob Mould than his stint with Husker
though, and he doesn’t founder when chronicling his subsequent years. After
Husker’s disbandment, a sober Mould sequestered himself in a remote farmhouse,
underwent an aesthetic transformation, and emerged with the first record
(1989’s Workbook) in a string of
critically successful solo albums. Mould
describes this time of his life as artistically fertile, albeit depressing– he
was uncomfortable with his sexuality and had unresolved personal issues. The
formation of Sugar thrust Mould back into the public eye, and affirmed that he
hadn’t yet shot his creative bolt. But Mould soon tired of touring, and retired
from music to focus on his personal life. Work has a propensity to find Bob
Mould though, and shortly after his retirement he became a WCW scriptwriter.
Even if you harbor no interest for the inner-workings of the professional
wrestling industry, the absurdity of the environment Mould chronicles will keep
you enthralled.


The last third of this book is allotted to Mould’s immersion
into gay culture, and his triumph over personal demons.  He details his initial dating awkwardness,
and confessions such as “I could command an audience of sixty thousand…but
wasn’t sure how to act at the gay coffee shop” are touching. Mould also
describes his infatuation with electronica, and his transformation from “miserablist”
to bacchanalian DJ is humorous. At the age of 50, Mould appears to have found
something not unlike happiness.


The book reads well, and despite Mould’s attention to
detail, the flow is never encumbered by minutiae. Azerrad’s organizational
talents no doubt helped the concision of his biography, but Mould is a good
writer in his own right. Husker fans can finally get the full story behind the
band’s most enigmatic member, and anyone remotely curious about Mould will burn
through this book. Bob Mould commits his entire being to his work, and this biography
is no exception. It’s heartfelt, informative, and you’d be hard-pressed to find
a more engaging music read this summer.





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