Release Date: Sep 4, 2012
Record label: Merge
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Noise Pop
"Never too old to contain my rage," bellows 51-year-old Bob Mould on his new solo LP, proving it on 10 songs (in 38 minutes) blistered with blow-torch riffs. The lyrics on Silver Age echo Mould's recent memoir; "The Descent" could even be read as an overture toward a long-hoped-for Hüsker Dü reunion tour. But sugar-crusted blitzkriegs like "Keep Believing" show he's doing fine on his own.
Perhaps writing his autobiography put Bob Mould in a nostalgic mood, as The Silver Age -- arriving roughly a year after See a Little Light: The Trail of Rage and Melody, co-written by Michael Azerrad -- surges forth with a molten, melodic energy unheard in Mould's music since the days of Sugar. It's no coincidence Mould introduced The Silver Age by performing Copper Blue in its entirety during a series of summer concerts in 2012: it is the forefather of this roaring blast of overdriven pop. Once again working in a power trio format -- here supported by bassist Jason Narducy and drummer Jon Wurster -- Mould sounds liberated, eschewing any of the lingering sensitivity and fragility that echoed through parts of 2009's Life and Times, an otherwise powerful guitar pop record.
If anyone in rock music deserves a victory lap, it's Bob Mould. He's been busy touring and playing his classic band Sugar's Copper Blue album live. He's seen Merge reissue the Sugar catalog in expansive new editions. For that work alone -- did I mention he was in Hüsker Dü, too? -- Mould has earned a chance to soak it in a bit.
Who said that growing old dulls your edge? Mould, 51, has sharper hooks and more barbed vitriol than musicians half his age. Case in point: Silver Age, his strongest, most searing collection of songs since Sugar. In fact, these tunes would seamlessly slot in alongside those predecessors: the title track’s chunky crunch recalls the slow shifting darkness of Beaster, while “The Descent” is soaring songwriting in the vein of Copper Blue’s “Hoover Dam.” There is no going gently into that good night here, just raging against the dying of the light.
Bob MouldSilver Age[Merge; 2012]By David Wolfson; September 25, 2012Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGTweetBob Mould has made a rock record. Twenty years ago, this news would not be eyebrow-raising. It would be celebrated, sure, but not something that would surprise anybody. Rock music, after all, was Bob Mould’s bread and butter, from the thrashing hardcore of early Hüsker Dü to the aggressive guitar pop of his most successful post-Hüsker project, Sugar.
Earlier this summer, Merge Records reissued the entire catalog by Sugar, the alt-rock group lead by Bob Mould in the early 1990s. It was a curious set of time capsules from the post-Nirvana heyday, and while the releases had gone out of print in the ensuing two decades, they were readily available in every dollar bin around the country. Nevertheless, those Sugar albums were galvanizing blasts of punk-derived rock, full of acid-barbed lyrics and jittery energy.
Like 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.
By the start of the new millennium, it looked as though Bob Mould had all but physically put his storied alt-rock past out to pasture. His 2002 record Modulate found him delving heavily into electronic music, while Blowoff, his live DJ set performed alongside Richard Morel, brought his progression toward dance music around full circle. Even when he has picked up the guitar in recent years, records such as Life and Times and District Line hit much closer to Workbook than Copper Blue.
After his heroic exploits in Hüsker Dü and then Sugar, Bob Mould has the right to make whatever music he goddamn well likes. And his dabblings with dance music over the last decade... I mean, I'm not really sure anyone wanted him to do it but you know, it's Bob, it's cool, whatever. But after spending much of 2012 taking the songs of Sugar’s crunchy classic Copper Blue out on the road for a twentieth anniversary tour, he's seemingly reconnected with his will to make bright, crunchy guitar pop.
There is nothing that this review will tell you about The Silver Age that opening track (and lead single) Star Machine will not. It’s an angry look at fame and betrayal that Bob Mould could have written while Husker Du was still together, and the guitar solo, sing-along chorus and big hooks sound straight out of Sugar’s discography. It’s certainly as good as anything else since Copper Blue, and its dark edge and fed-up-with-it attitude convey a sense of urgency.
“Never too old to contain my rage,” goes a line on the new Bob Mould disc, and you have to kind of be amazed. Not at the penmanship, per se, but at the realization that, holy crow!, Bob Mould is more than 50 years old! (He turns 52 in mid-October.) Was it really nearly a half-lifetime ago that I was in my parent’s basement bopping around, pretending to play along on an invisible Flying V to most of Hüsker Dü’s back catalogue? Time flies. Well, time has seemingly been kind to Bob Mould, as Silver Age, his latest solo release, proves.
Bob Mould's 2011 autobiography, See a Little Light: The Trail of Rage and Melody, remains notable for its lack of rage and melody, but apparently he was saving that for Silver Age. Shedding the introspection of recent efforts to unleash his most powerful solo work since Sugar, Mould strikes gold much like his post-Hüsker Dü vehicle – in the power trio formation alongside Jason Narducy and Superchunk's Jon Wurster. "I'm never too old to contain my rage," Mould spits atop huge, aggressive riffs on the title track, and throughout Silver Age, he never holds back perfectly pitched melodic post-punk and nods to the 20th anniversary reissue of Sugar's Copper Blue.
A man doing what he does best, enjoying his very own silver age. Louis Pattison 2012 Bob Mould’s 00s work, albums such as 2002’s Modulate and 2008’s District Line, saw the former Hüsker Dü man mixing up his trademarked loud guitars with electronic textures and Auto-Tuned vocals – a nod, speculated critics, to Mould’s increasing comfort with his status as an out gay man, not to mention his new sideline as a house DJ promoting his own club night, Blowoff. As is befitting of a rock’n’roll veteran of several decades standing, though, Mould’s career has progressed in cycles.
“Never too old to contain my rage” proclaims Bob Mould on ‘Silver Age’, the title track of his tenth solo album. It is a fitting line to describe a record that is positively brimming with urgency, vitality, and vigour.There are few more legendary or more respected figures in indie rock than Bob Mould. The revered Hüsker Dü and Sugar leader is now 51 years old, and after a period of years reflecting on his life both with a series of album reissues, introspective experimental solo records and an all-encompassing autobiography.
For Bob Mould, three’s a lucky number. In the ’80s, he cut his teeth as frontman of the Minneapolis trio Hüsker Dü, a legendary underground trio whose melodic hardcore, punk and power-pop inspired modern acts such as Foo Fighters and No Age. In the ’90s, Mould spent time at the helm of the similarly poppy Sugar, an ear-splittingly loud three-piece whose 1992 debut, Copper Blue, was recently reissued.
When Merge Records rereleased the entire Sugar catalog just over a month ago, it seemed to imply that frontman Bob Mould’s glory days ended two decades ago. “Silver Age” shuts down such thoughts fairly definitively, duplicating what labelmates Superchunk pulled off two years ago: releasing an album not just reminiscent of but worthy of comparison to his best ’90s material. The sound and approach of “Silver Age” will be instantly familiar to anyone who whiled away the hours spinning “Copper Blue,” blaring with a burnished, muscular gleam from Mould’s ringing guitars and appealingly nasal bray down to the whomping rhythm section.