A new Bob Mould album is always a welcomed thing; he’s a voice of comfort; familiarity – an old friend that makes you stop and think and remember certain times, feelings and emotions. And with Blue Hearts, his 14th solo album, it’s the quintessential listeners return from someone we know who can purge whatever we can’t articulate in a musical fashion.
As has been the case through his last four albums, he’s joined by Jason Narducy on bass and Jon Wurster on drums; the trio play with the same perfectly balanced intensity as Mould had done in his days with Husker Du and Sugar and their long-standing association is evident by the seamless way with the firepower of each performance. Interestingly, the album opens up with “Heart On My Sleeve”, an acoustic based number that sounds like it was banged out on a tape recorder as a reference demo; you can hear a tension in his voice and the hard strokes on the guitar, which leads into “Next Generation”, which is the trademark Mould sound – furious, fast, high energy and vocals spat out as if his life depends on it. “American Crisis”, which was previewed before the album’s release, was originally written for 2018’s Sunshine Rock, takes on a particularly timely urgency with the current state of affairs – certainly, this is one of those “Bob screamers” that has a heavier punch when you read the lyrics – “…this American crisis keeps me awake at night…” – short, sharp and to the point (while carrying some immediate recall to “Chartered Trips”, “Something I Learned Today”, etc.).
Subsequently, “Fireball” is a blink-and-you-missed-it moment, where “Forecast Of Rain” is a godwash of guitars and lyrical sharpness (“…would this be blasphemy: when you’re a star/you can do what you want…”) and ending with an aptly-haunting church organ; “Siberian Butterfly” is the other “radio directed” or “single” track, filled with Mould’s catchy melodic skill, while still having the same break-neck speed as the other tracks. “Baby Wants A Cookie” has a nice, taut, rockin’ throttle but is a little more restrained than the other tracks, which I like a lot – it’s focused but not overwhelmed by the sonic assault of rage; “Leather Dreams” is also a little more restrained with (what seems to be) very pointed lyrics about a former lover’s betrayal, which is a good contradictory way to construct a song and “The Ocean”, which ends this album is a stripped-down, calming piece, but again, filled with lyrics of foreboding and uncertainty (“…crashed out/the currents are taking/me further out to sea…”) – and the song’s end definitely steps back into Mould’s musical past with Sugar with one of his classic guitar “freakouts”, which ends in a haze of feedback.
As I said previously, a Bob Mould album is a welcomed thing – at this point in all our musical lives, it’s needed and a comfort. Knowing that he’s still doing what he does, the way he does it makes you always wanting more.
Blue Hearts is currently available