Mould, Bob – Silver Age – New LP
solid set from Mould (Hüsker Dü, Sugar...) -- winch
"Like another revered Minnesotan songwriter, 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. Now, with his demons fully exorcised and emotional baggage tossed aside, Mould is game to plug in and rev up again.
"Just as Sugar emerged in 1992 right as Hüsker Dü's legacy was becoming manifest in both the chart-conquering crunch of Nirvana and the underground-overturning squall of My Bloody Valentine, Silver Age arrives as a totem of Mould's continued influence on today's mainstream rock (Foo Fighters, Green Day) and indie-level (No Age, Japandroids) artists alike. Recorded with the band he used to tour 2009's stately Life and Times-- bassist Jason Narducy and Superchunk/Mountain Goats drummer Jon Wurster-- Silver Age immediately establishes itself as a more roaring, rambunctious affair. In fact, the album is so true to fuzz-pop form that you might easily mistake it for an unearthed bonus disc of quality Sugar outtakes from those recent reissues; the opening anti-sellout screed "Star Machine" could even pass for a 90s-era comment on mallternative-rock chancers. The title track, however, firmly asserts the record as the work of a modern-day Mould when he declares, "I'm never too old to contain my rage," before spitting on the "stupid little kid [who] wanna hate my game." Yet there's a vigor and vitality running through Silver Age that belies those cranky-old-man sentiments; while there is much to admire about Mould's penchant for taking risks and shifting creative course, no fan would complain if he simply delivered euphoric power-pop knockouts like "The Descent", "Briefest Moment", and "Keep Believing" in perpetuity.
"The Sugar reissues provide a convenient yardstick with which to measure the strength of the songs here, though they also draw attention to the new album's monochromatic sound*-- Silver Age* would benefit from a destabilizing dose of loopy psychedelia à la "Hoover Dam", or a more direct appeal to heart in the vein of "If I Can't Change Your Mind" to bring greater dimension to the album's workmanlike drive. But just as those classic Hüsker Dü records suggested an infinite depth of noise despite their pancaked production, Mould still covers a lot of ground here while staying in the red. From the dreamy, "Man on the Moon"-style drone of "Steam of Hercules" to the foreboding urgency of "Angels Rearrange", Mould just sounds so perfectly at home when howling in the face of a hurricane-- his voice is as natural a complement to a hazily overdriven power chord as Brian Wilson's is to a harpsichord. Silver Age is a suitably self-deprecating title from an artist whose considerable cachet hasn't always allowed him to cash in; Mould effectively owns up to his contrarian tendencies when, in "The Descent", he admits, "I didn't want to play the song/ That gave people so much hope." But as a showcase of a seasoned master in his element, Silver Age's bounty of direct, distorto-pop hits measures up to Mould's gold standard."