Album Review of Workbook 25 [Deluxe Edition] by Bob Mould.
Release Date: Feb 25, 2014
Record label: Virgin
Genre(s): Rock, Pop/Rock
The collection has aged remarkably well. “See a Little Light” sounds even more jubilant, while the album’s most crunched-out alt-rawk moment, “Whichever Way the Wind Blows,” manages to come across like Jimmy Page jamming with the Hüskers. Extras include the Sugar-y power-pop B-side “All the People Know” and a 1989 concert taped at Chicago’s Cabaret Metro.
When Hüsker Dü split in 1988, there was no going back. The competition between Bob Mould and Grant Hart had become opposition. Hart was dealing with drug addiction. Bassist Greg Norton had all but checked out, and Mould was not just ready to move on, he severed ties. It was a definitive and final ….
“Sunspots”—the gentle, two-minute instrumental that opens Bob Mould’s 1989 solo debut Workbook—may be the softest, saddest “fuck you” in recorded history. Still stinging from the acrimonious breakup Hüsker Dü in 1988, the singer/guitarist formed a new trio to replace the old, this one with bassist Tony Maimone and drummer Anton Fier (who, among other accomplishments, served together briefly in Pere Ubu). That caliber of rhythm section had the potential to be at least as loud as Hüsker Dü’s.
When a band splits as acrimoniously as Hüsker Dü did in 1987, the first fruits of their rupture are bound to yield bitter seeds. Bob Mould's 1989 solo debut has its share (see "Poison Years"), but hope radiates through much of the LP. This 25th-anniversary reissue features an accelerated and raging '89 live rendering of the album that adds a few Hüsker classics – acoustic and disarmingly tender.
Full disclosure: I have a personal relationship with this record. Not in the sense that I had anything to do with its creation – I certainly do not. Nor that it came along as a difficult or trying time in my life and helped me get through it – outside of having to constantly take my ‘69 Volkswagen Beetle to the shop, I was feeling pretty good about life in 1989.
Although the story goes that Hüsker Dü imploded on tour in January 1988 after a disastrous show, the band’s atrophy had been under way for some time before that night in Columbia, Missouri. Interpersonal tension, creative differences, and personal tragedy had fatally strained one of the great bands of the ’80s. Afterward, singer-guitarist Bob Mould retreated to a farm in rural Minnesota and planned his next move.