Review : Bob Mould - Silver Age
PitchforkLike another revered Minnesotan songwriter, Bob Mould is a don't-look-back kinda guy: The noise-pop trail he blazed with Hüsker Dü in the 1980s was roadblocked by a pair of dirgey, despairing solo releases; his short-lived return to rock in the early 90s with Sugar was answered with a series of increasingly sophisticated-- and occasionally electronic-- solo albums informed by his pre-millennial immersion into New York's gay club scene and contented ease into middle age. Always self-aware but never self-obsessed, Mould's divergent songbook serves as a mood-ring measure of his personal journey from angry adolescent punk to out-and-proud adult, and of his wavering desire to engage with the contemporary alt-rock for which he essentially wrote the playbook. But Mould has, uncharacteristically, spent the last few years taking stock of his past, penning a tell-all autobiography with Michael Azerrad, and overseeing Merge's 20th-anniversary reissues of the Sugar catalog. Now, with his demons fully exorcised and emotional baggage tossed aside, Mould is game to plug in and rev up again.
Just as Sugar emerged in 1992 right as Hüsker Dü's legacy was becoming manifest in both the chart-conquering crunch of Nirvana and the underground-overturning squall of My Bloody Valentine, Silver Age arrives as a totem of Mould's continued influence on today's mainstream rock (Foo Fighters, Green Day) and indie-level (No Age, Japandroids) artists alike. Recorded with the band he used to tour 2009's stately Life and Times-- bassist Jason Narducy and Superchunk/Mountain Goats drummer Jon Wurster-- Silver Age immediately establishes itself as a more roaring, rambunctious affair. In fact, the album is so true to fuzz-pop form that you might easily mistake it for an unearthed bonus disc of quality Sugar outtakes from those recent reissues; the opening anti-sellout screed "Star Machine" could even pass for a 90s-era comment on mallternative-rock chancers. The title track, however, firmly asserts the record as the work of a modern-day Mould when he declares, "I'm never too old to contain my rage," before spitting on the "stupid little kid [who] wanna hate my game." Yet there's a vigor and vitality running through Silver Age that belies those cranky-old-man sentiments; while there is much to admire about Mould's penchant for taking risks and shifting creative course, no fan would complain if he simply delivered euphoric power-pop knockouts like "The Descent", "Briefest Moment", and "Keep Believing" in perpetuity....full text
LatimesThe words "youth culture" have been associated with rock 'n' roll for decades. The first eight months of 2012, however, have brought us mounting evidence to the contrary. "Never," Mould snarls in the title track, "too old to contain my rage."
Who knows (or cares) what the song's target — a "stupid little kid" — did to enrage Mould. What matters here is that Mould, now in his 50s, is surveying the landscape with fire rather than contentment, and the results couldn't sound more vital. Like recent works from the likes of Redd Kross, Mission of Burma and OFF!, Mould's guitar-bass-drums are on the attack, and with 10 songs over and done in less than 40 minutes, he's not here to sit and reflect.
Superchunk's Jon Wurster brings a big-beat counterpunch to Mould's low-to-the-mix vocals on "Briefest Moment," and when "Steam of Hercules" slows to a highway speed-limit pace, it practically comes off as a ballad despite a mix that has the song drowning in a cavalcade of guitars. "Are you in my way?" Mould asks in the tense, leaden-guitar stalk of "Fugue State," while "Angels Rearrange" refines the marriage of melodicism and relentlessness....full text
AvclubEvery 10 years, Bob Mould morphs. In 1982, his first band, melodic punk legend Hüsker Dü, issued its debut full-length, Land Speed Record. In 1992, Mould’s far more radio-friendly outfit, Sugar, released its debut, Copper Blue. Then, in 2002, Mould dropped two electronic-based albums, Modulate and Long Playing Grooves, that explored new textural territory while holding much of his fan base at arm’s length. Since then, he’s drifted gradually toward a more guitar-centric sound that incorporates bits of everything he’s done to date—almost. The one implement in Mould’s toolbox that’s been mostly absent lately is the kind of snarling, shimmering distortion that he first introduced on Land Speed Record, an abrasive live album that even the most ardent Mould fans tend to shun. Mould’s new solo album, Silver Age, comes at the cusp of another 10-year period. But rather than turning into something new, it settles into some comforting old sounds.
Comforting, however, does not equate with laid-back. On opener “Star Machine,” a sharp, jagged riff rips open the disc as if it were a tin can. When the chorus hits, it does so with a punch and focus that’s been missing from Mould’s most recent albums, the scattered yet excellent trio of Body Of Song, District Line, and Life And Times. Where those albums retained hints of slick pop, balladry, broad dynamics, and that lingering squiggle of electronics, Silver Age just rocks. In Mould’s case, though, “just rocking” has always meant more: more melody, more smarts, more craft, and more depth of emotion. That holds true on the shiny, anthemic “The Descent,” which—with typical Mould contrarianism—spirals upward on a gloriously ascending chord pattern. Meanwhile, Mould’s lyrics—delivered in a refreshed, reinvigorated voice that transcends the decades—traffic in his wheelhouse: the dysfunction at the heart of human interaction. “Can I drown / To make it up to you somehow?” he sings acidly, but the aftertaste is sweet, sticky syrup....full text
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