Bob Mould has finally been getting his due with the 2012 release of both his autobiography, See a Little Light: A Celebration of the Music and Legacy of Bob Mould, and the DVD of a tribute concert centered around his music held at Disney Hall. So maybe after finally seeing how much his work has meant to others, the one time Husker Du frontman has been inspired to come out kicking on ‘Silver Age’.
From the familiar but unique soaring chime of guitar opening on “Star Machine,” you know Mould is in fine shape. With songwriting skills honed in the brash underground of the 1980s in the competitive uproar that was Husker Du, through the 1990s in Sugar and his solo efforts, Mould’s songs seem to have grown older…but wiser. By the time he lets Track 1 fade into feedback and enters into onslaught number 2, “Silver Age,” listeners will find themselves bouncing around, nodding, and shouting along with tracks anchored by the solid rhythm section of Jason Narducy on bass and Jon Wurster pounding stronger-than-usual drums.
The richness of Mould’s voice and characteristic caustic phrasing are pleasantly intact. He’s always had a talent not only for the turn of phrase, but also the rare ability to bare his struggles without becoming overly morose. We are always uplifted, and carried up, no matter how mournful his refrains – and there is something to be said for this. No one likes a cry-ass, and the topics Mould covers could easily fall prey to that trap: struggles in love, memories of moments, making sense of ourselves, each other, and ourselves with each other. This is tender ground, not often tread by gruff old punk rockers. It is so much easier to complain, criticize, and dismiss this emotional territory out of hand, so it’s refreshing to see Mould make these emotions kick-ass instead of cry-ass. This shines mightily on the 3rd track, “The Descent” which ranks among his best. The melody, lyrics and build up to the emotional release of the final chorus are perfectly crafted songwriting. The warning? Don’t try to sing along, or surely your voice will catch in your throat when you get to lyrics like:
“I didn’t want to play the song
That gave people so much hope
I turned my back and turned away
Here’s the rope that made me choke”
With ‘Silver Age,’ Mould has achieved one of his strongest efforts in an already mighty career. Maintaining the sound of his youthful endeavors, while allowing his lyrical content to grow up, he has created an album with combined exuberance of a Husker Du album written from the perspective of the here and now. It’s an excellent testament to the fact that none of us are younger, but do not have to let the rocking slide.