Album: Bob Mould

Modulate, Cooking Vinyl
Click to follow
The Independent Culture

This is Bob Mould's first album since 1998's dismal The Last Dog and Pony Show, during which hiatus he spent the better part of a year working as creative consultant for the (now defunct) WCW wrestling circus – yes, wrestlers need consultants, too – and elected to "re-learn the process of composition" on the new technology of synths, samplers and computers, rather than the guitar with which he invented grunge. Not that Bob's re-education seems to have altered his basic approach that much: tracks like "Semper Fi" and "Sunset Safety Glass" simply replace the guitar thrashes with keyboard sequences that barrel along at a ridiculous rate, like berserk piano players, while he attempts to impose a vocal melody over the top.

This is Bob Mould's first album since 1998's dismal The Last Dog and Pony Show, during which hiatus he spent the better part of a year working as creative consultant for the (now defunct) WCW wrestling circus – yes, wrestlers need consultants, too – and elected to "re-learn the process of composition" on the new technology of synths, samplers and computers, rather than the guitar with which he invented grunge. Not that Bob's re-education seems to have altered his basic approach that much: tracks like "Semper Fi" and "Sunset Safety Glass" simply replace the guitar thrashes with keyboard sequences that barrel along at a ridiculous rate, like berserk piano players, while he attempts to impose a vocal melody over the top.

It's no contest: in most cases, the songs are strangled by the barrage of speed-minimalism. Elsewhere, "Without?" and "Homecoming Parade" offer tentative excursions into musique concrète, while "Homery" is a short feedback/noise collage, like a potted version of Neil Young's "Arc-Weld". Unsurprisingly, the most listener-friendly tracks are those which draw on Mould's tried-and-trusted melodic-grunge style, such as "Slay/Sway" and "Trade", whose tunes are allowed to trace their serpentine beauty unaccosted by the madly cycling keyboards, and whose lyrics reflect a longing for the simplicities of an earlier outsider youth culture: "How long have you lived in a dead-end town/ Where there's nothing around you/ But an empty garage full of nothing to do?/ It was fun to have a few friends over." And still is, I hope.

Comments