If I’m being honest, there are very few musicians/bands who I actively look forward to hearing new music from – it’s the syndrome of “too many years – it all sounds the same”. But there are a few that still make me sit up and take notice and Bob Mould is one of them.
Having been following Mr. Mould’s career since I first heard Zen Arcade in that golden summer of ’84, I’ve been not only a fan but openly influenced by his sound and style, especially when he moved on to Sugar in the early ’90’s. Now he’s released his latest offering, Sunshine Rock, which is – in my mind – a loose concept album built around upbeat, energetic pop (and note the artwork: a clever nod to the old Capitol orange and yellow “swirl” label, used – most notably – on The Beatles’ 45’s). On this 13th solo outing, strings are added to the firepower guitars and watertight rhythm section (courtesy of the always-on-the-one bass of Jason Narducy and thunderdrumming of Jon Wurster) and it makes for a breezy, powerful collection that clearly shows Mr. Mould at his best.
Case and point, “Sunny Love Song” immediately harkens back to the sonic palette that Sugar used to paint with – and you can’t help but notice the irony in the lyrics of this track as they’re filled with regret while the music is just that – sunny – major chords and a jaunty guitar solo; subsequently, “Thirty Dozen Roses” is almost a revisit to the Husker Du canon – an intense, 100 m.p.h. piece that spews some brilliant couplets (“…Me, a thorn/I’m such a lousy prick to you…”) and leaps right out and grabs you by the throat.
The album’s title cut, which opens the album, comes leaping out at you with a brisk, explosive guitar (that patented sound, which I absolutely love) and the dramatic entry of a string section in the song’s instrumental break makes this an obvious choice for naming the album and the direction the music takes; “The Final Years” goes in a surprising semi-’80’s way with a keyboard melody as the driving force to open the cut, along with a noticeably boosted bass (!); the lyrics are meaningful and touching – certainly, as an older person, I can appreciate the perspective in “…where did I put my sense of misplaced rage?…”; “Lost Faith” is one of the Mould-trademarks: introspective lyrics – looking inward in a self-dialogue and analysis, framed by a hypnotic guitar wash (think Sugar’s Beaster E.P.) and “Camp Sunshine” is clean, crisp pop, once again contradicted by sadness-tinged lyrics, filled with longing, memory and some remorse – this time, in a lower. much more subdued tone. Which is Mr. Mould’s constant masterstroke.
Like I said – it isn’t often that I can look forward to and enjoy a particular artist after X amount of years, but Bob Mould is one of the few. Frankly, he hasn’t made a less-than-stellar record since before Body Of Song (I think his overall masterpiece, actually). And here, he once again manages to deliver an album of “personal” songs that work on a universal level. And that is something I will always appreciate.
Sunshine Rock is currently available