My sister recently sent me a copy of Bob Mould’s ‘Life and Times.’ It was really sweet of my sister to do that, because there aren’t a whole lot of things my sister and I have in common, so we try to focus a high degree of attention on the few interests we share. An affection for Bob Mould is one of those things.
Now, I’m old enough to have seen Bob Mould playing in Hüsker Dü. I was a fan of theirs from the get-go and ‘Zen Arcade’ was one of those few double albums that almost warranted being a double album (there is still a good bit of filler in there). But the double punch of ‘New Day Rising’ and ‘Flip Your Wig’ was stunning. Yet, both were eclipsed by the beauty that was ‘Candy Apple Grey,’ which I still maintain is one of the best albums of the 1980s. I thought ‘Warehouse’ sucked and when I saw them live, I could tell why: their hatred for each other had sucked all the life out of the band. I wasn’t surprised when they broke up a few months later.
I’m still surprised, however, that my favorite Hüsker Dü songs tend to be by Grant Hart. I find that surprising because I always gravitated more to Bob Mould in that band. So I’ve always followed his solo career religiously (as an aside, I should admit that one of my stronger character traits is loyalty, even for bands. If I loved a band deeply in the past, I will almost always give their newest album a try even when I’ve been burned by the previous crappy releases. REM and Rancid are cases in point). (As another aside, I mix a delicious gin gimlet. I mean, really fucking good). Back to Mould: I love the story about, how after the band broke up, he applied for a job in the US Forest Department but didn’t get it. On the long drive back from the interview, he wrote ‘Poison Years.’ I liked that first solo album ‘Workbook’ OK. There were some pretty good songs, but it was pretty uneven. There is one song (“Brasillia turned to Trenton” I think) that sounds an awful lot like “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.”
But then “Black Sheets of Rain” came out and my faith in Bob Mould was completely validated. In my mind, that stands out head-and-shoulders above all of his post-HD work and is better than most of the stuff he did in Hüsker Dü. Such a great album.
But then he followed it up with Sugar. Granted, “A Good Idea” off of the first album is a great song. But the rest of that album is pretty weak and hasn’t held up well over the course of time. But then again, Sugar seemed to redeem themselves with the “Beaster” EP – a nice juicy slab of dark muck, recalling both ‘Candy Apple Grey’ and ‘Black Sheets of Rain.’ An exciting suggestion of where Mould might be going. But he turned around and served up the treacle that was Sugar’s next (and thankfully last) studio album ‘File Under: Easy Listening.’
If memory serves me right (yeah, I could go look all of this up, but did I mention I make a fucking awesome gin gimlet?), he then ditched all other musicians and recorded the so-called ‘hubcap’ album all by himself. The drums were pretty damn weak, but I appreciated his desire to do a Prince. And the album had a number of gems, especially the ones about broken relationships. For me, the stand-out tracks were ‘Thumbtack’ and ‘Roll Over and Die’ (great title). I remember seeing him live for that tour and thinking to myself, “This is a guy you never want pissed off at you.” He writes some of the best vindictive break-up songs ever. I also saw him on tour for the ‘Last Dog and Pony Show’ in Boston. If anyone went to that show, I was the guy who almost got arrested for refusing to sit back down in my seat. I only avoided getting hauled off when dozens, then hundreds, then everybody also stood up. My heart about exploded for love of Bostonians that night.
But here is where my story fades out, because I can’t recall a single song off of that album. I can’t even remember the names of the last couple of albums. OK, I lie. There was that crappy dance album called ‘Modulate’ and then the so-called return albums ‘Body of Song” and ‘District Line,’ but they’ve all left me flat. And that is how I feel about the new album, ‘Life and Times.’ It sounds like he is just covering some of the lamer songs of his extensive catalogue. There seems to be little fire anymore. I’ve thought that before and have been pleasantly surprised by Mould, but I’m starting to lose hope. At least, ‘Life and Times’ isn’t as embarrassing as ‘Modulate.’ But when the next one comes out, I’ll probably only listen to it if my sister sends me a copy. Should I tell her I’ve about given up on Mould? I don’t think I can lose one of our few points of contact.
What is the fucking point of this lengthy post? I make a damn fine gimlet.