Bob Mould – Life & Times

January 01, 1970

(Anti-)

www.anti.com

 

I recently caught a favorite act that had gone through a few
lean musical years, mostly due to marriages and kids and all that other adult
stuff. This night, though, the band unveiled new songs that bled like the old
ones, brutally honest and uncompromising. “Yes, the happy days are over,” one
of them told the gathered faithful between songs, not quite able to keep the
grin from his face. This particular act shares little in common musically with
the legendary Bob Mould, beyond that honesty that fuels their best songs – and
in the case of the former Husker Du singer/guitarist’s  Life
& Times
, represents some of his strongest work since he first emerged
from the seminal punk-pop act’s shadow.

 

And for most Bob Mould fans, returning to Husker Du’s
genre-bridging greatness has never really been the issue. What they wondered
was whether Mould would ever tap into the same energy he did with Sugar on
1992’s Copper Blue, arguably one of
the best and most underrated rock records of that decade. And while there have
been Sugar-like moments sprinkled throughout the years after, this, his 9th solo record, seems to run all of Mould’s various incarnations through Copper Blue‘s hook-first template: Crisp
acoustic guitar that recall his first solo record, Workbork (“Life & Times,”); electric guitar tsunamis ala Black Sheets of Rain that punctuate the
high – okay, low – emotional points (“MM17”); the occasional synth for texture
shorn of its Modulate dance-floor
beats (“Lifetime”); and 90,000-mph punk rave-ups that even hint at the 80s’
glory years (“Argos”).

 

Sonically, in other words, the songs feel familiar without
sounding nostalgic. Mould recorded everything but the drums – turned in with
appropriate fury and immediacy by Jon Wurster – in his home studio, but this is
anything but a lo-fi record. And when Mould stomps on that phase-shifter and
kicks these cuts into that extra gear that few songwriters have, the
accompanying shot of adrenaline still packs kick-to-the-solar-plexus power. But
the material’s real strength comes from the honesty at its core. Mould insists
these 10 love-gone-sour narratives are not autobiographical, just adopted
literary devices. Believe that if you must, but you can’t sing with this
conviction unless you’ve been mired in relationship muck and taking dutiful
notes on the damages inflicted to all parties. That empathetic quality —
together with the songs’ superior hooks, dynamics and textures — is what
distinguishes Mould from, say emo’s self-absorbed clichés. Lots of folks might
write “I always find the broken ones,” as Mould sings on “I’m Sorry Baby, But
You Can’t Stand in My Light Anymore,” but far fewer would bother to then ask,
“What does that say about me?” And even in the comparatively liberal orbits of
the alt-/indie-/punk rock worlds, an uncompromising line like “the taste of
last night’s sex in my mouth” from the scorching ballad “Bad Blood Better”
takes more courage than many would probably care to concede. But then Mould’s
always been brave, whether bridging the ‘80s punk and pop worlds, switching
gears into dance-floor territory this century, or revealing enough of himself
to show us something important in ourselves.

 

Standout Tracks: “Spiraling
Down,” “City Lights (Days Go By),” “MM17” JOHN SCHACHT

 

 

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