Beauty & Ruin
What can I say about Bob Mould that hasn’t been said all kinds of times before? Hell, he even has a tell-all style autobiography that you can go and read. He has ten solo albums filled with deeply personal and often painfully angst-ridden lyrics – not to mention at least half of the songs from the six ground-breaking Hüsker Dü during the 80s and the three album side road for three albums as Sugar in the early 90s. These tell the story alone. If you are aware of his music from the last 35 years, you already know how you feel about him. If not, then all I can do is recommend his powerful songs and hope you discover this legendary talent for yourself.
It’s difficult for me to truly judge where I’d place this new album amongst his amazing legacy. The first listen felt like a mild let down after the spectacular tour de force of 2012’s Silver Age (#1 pick of 2012 seen here), which was so focused and so incisive and absolutely as fresh as he’s ever sounded. But it’s not as if he was on a cold streak before Silver Age. 2009’s Life and Times was excellent, as well as District Line and Body of Song and on back we go. And if I were to choose where this new album stands, I think I may like it better than any of those, so how could it possibly be a let down? It’s not. The album grows with each listen. Mould continues to sound as revitalized as ever – due in large part to his solid – no stellar – touring and recording band for these last two albums. With ex-Verbow bandleader Jason Narducy (please, I beg of you to check out their two great albums from the late 90s Chronicles and White Out) on bass and Superchunk (I’m sure you already know how great they are!) drummer Jon Wurster – this trio has gathered a lot of momentum and are tight as can be. Mould is at a place in his life where he seems willing to enjoy his full musical legacy (the band ripped through several old Hüsker Dü numbers and played Sugar’s unbelievably great Copper Blue in its entirety!!) and soak up the appreciation that his too small following offers him.
Beauty & Ruin may not have the huge upfront impact of Silver Age, but it has a much wider variety and like his previous two solo albums we find Mould increasingly ruminating over his history and confronting past demons. The album opens up with a Workbook or Black Sheets of Rain heaviness with “Low Season,” a cold look filled with mixed emotions due to his father’s passing. Then Mould comes out with the rage on the speedy burner “Little Glass Pill.” Actually, there are more truly fast songs mixed in this album than maybe any since his 80s punk days, with the self-deprecating “Kid with Crooked Face,” and the curmudgeonly “Hey Mr. Grey.” He hasn’t lost his touch with catchy singles either. The third song, which is always the album’s lead single, “I Don’t Know You Anymore,” is as addictive as any single he’s ever released - actually, so is the brief, but explosive Tomorrow Morning,” and the straight-ahead buzz saw of “The War,” and the amazing “Fire in the City,” or the easy going strum and delicate keyboard melody of “Forgiveness.” It’s all so excellent! The album closes with two positive tracks to end the proceedings on an uplifting note as well, which is a little strange after listening to so much bleakness and witnessing one of the angriest and loudest concerts I’ve ever witnessed in support of Black Sheets of Rain in 1990.
Beauty & Ruin is another winning collection from one of the greatest songwriters of our time. That’s really all that needs to be said.
Bob Mould "I Don't Know You Anymore"