Bob Mould (Merge Records), is the musical equivalent of grandma’s fancy silverware. Old, perfectly functional, beautiful to look at, locked in another era, more ornate then its newer contemporaries, and a delight to hold.
Not that being old is bad. Mould, now in his fifties, was ahead of his time when he was playing in the influential punk/alt-rock goliath Hüsker Dü. Mixing elements of hardcore punk and classic rock with pop melodies and ambitious ideas (like the narrative rock-opera-esque Zen Arcade), Hüsker Dü broke new ground for many emerging artists. Sugar, Mould’s band after Hüsker Dü, continued the awesomeness through the ’90s.
So considering how ahead of the times Bob Mould was, perhaps this new album, though not drastically different from Mould’s previous output, is contemporary after all. Certainly, if you’ve been a fan of Hüsker Dü or Sugar in the past, you will be familiar with the sound of Silver Age: introspective lyrics sung over thundering instrumentation with syrupy sweet hooks defying simple classification. Bob Mould does not reinvent the wheel on his new release, but why would we want him to? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. As bands like Cloud Nothings and The Men have shown us already this year, there is treasure to be found in unearthing sounds from the recent past. Sure, Silver Age may sound like it could’ve come hurtling through a time machine from the ’80s or ’90s alternative rock scene, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s actually a pretty damn good album. It’s proof that Mr. Mould has a lot more awesomejuice left to squeeze from his rock bones.
The opening track, “Star Machine” starts the album off with authority. Mould’s vocals blend perfectly with the solid beat and subject matter, a repudiation of overstuffed celebrity. From the opening track onward, the album demands to be played at a high volume. The title track that follows, “Silver Age,” sounds like a letter from Mould to the music world at large and perhaps to his critics as well. The guitar lines have great punch, with that sweet crunch we’ve come to love from this kind of music. By the third track, “The Descent,” it’s difficult to not be on your feet thrashing around your room, or at least nodding your head to the catchy hooks and anthemic vocals:
The whole album flows together well, and can be listened to from beginning to end without a single grimace. Not bad for a guy who was making great albums back when people were still making phone calls with these. I’d tell you which tracks are my favorite, but honestly, they all blend together, and they’re all good. I’d try the tracks I’ve already mentioned, as well as “Fugue State,” “Round The City Square,” and the hard-driving “Keep Believing.”
Way to go, Bob Mould. You’re in your fifties and still making better music than 95% of today’s modern “musicians.” We’ll never get a full Hüsker Dü reunion, but if Bob Mould keeps releasing albums as good as Silver Age, we don’t really need one.