Silver Age – Bob Mould

bob mould's silver age - album coverFor publication in Groove Guide September 2012

Silver Age – Bob Mould

Silver Age is exactly what it appears to be: It’s 38 minutes of rock,” Mould told Rolling Stone recently, “People can feel free to parse the songs and make what they want of them, but I didn’t really have any agenda there.”  Really Bob, that’s unlike you.  I still have strong memories of 1998’s Last Dog and Pony Show, which is effectively a chronicle of a man from relationship break up (‘Moving Trucks’) through to paying for sex (“Skin Trade”) and trolling for new love (“Classifieds”).  Since then the former Hüsker Dü’ guitarist has dabbled in wrestling (as a commentator), various disco dj projects (embracing his rainbow side) made experimental lo-fi electronica (“Body of Song’, and the Hub Cap album) and returned to his trademark axe grinding.  Now days’ Mould’s more about raising his pulse than baring his soul.  After all, he’s just dissected his own life in last year’s memoir See a Little Light: A Trail of Rage and Melody co-written with rock journalist Michael Azerrad.  So it was time become re-propulsive.  And what we have is classic ‘Sugar-era’ Mould.  Silver Age is full blasting, hi-octane catchy pop with only brief traces of electronic noodling.

Of course it’s no coincidence that Silver… turns up 20 year’s after ’92’s Copper Blue, which has just been reissued and Mould has been touring stateside in its entirety.  He told Time recently that for the title track “there wasn’t a lot of deliberation about (whether) I’m going to write a song about age or aging. It was just sort of a snotty song”.  Mould’s been pretty upfront to suggest that Silver…is really a “companion piece, something that would complement the sentiment of Copper Blue”.  And it’s no coincidence either that he’s roped in his touring band drummer Jon Wurster (Superchunk) and bassist Jason Narducy(Verbow, Spl:t S:ngle).  

 “Star Machine” begins brilliantly, with the kind of sonic assault that only Mould could conjure up.  The title track carries on the mission with a force not really seen since Copper blue and their even more brutal Beaster ep.  “The Descent” is possibly the closest to the aforementioned introspective, except given the aesthetic, Mould’s form of navel gazing will always have hari kari and the blade in his peripheral vision.  For a happy man he’s still sufficiently grumpy to make this stuff work well on acetate.  At times the guitar work becomes a torrential force, like on tracks such as “Steam of Hercules,” arriving in layer upon layer of sonic maelstrom. Also worth mentioning is” Angels Rearrange” which reminds me of the Hüsker’s earlier Flip Your Wig, one of the first albums that the band really hadproper control over.

Control is important to Mould.  Some would say he’s been in control writing, recording, and playing for over three decades. So this is really just another exercise in control and punishment.  It’s loud, calculated but still remarkably melodic.  Whilst other bands like Sonic Youth did their best to write the perfect pop song and then artistically trash it, Mould’s talents lie in his ability to write the sweetest music and then terrorise it within an inch of its life.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Advertisements

Southern Riders – Band of Horses

Due for publication on Grooveguide.co.nz in September 2012

My phone conversation with Bill Reynolds, bassist and producer with South Carolina’s Band of Horses, must be one of the most congenial to date.  Over the phone, at least, he’s one of the nicest most charming guys, I’ve ever met.  His southern drawl has a light, assuring feel to it. He talks like a sagely big brother.   Having relocated to northern California as part of the band’s recent recording project, Reynolds admits he’s not a “Hollywood kinda guy’ and shuns the usual big city trappings preferring his cabin in the woods, where he has a small studio. 

He tells me the move was logistical, more for the album than for the lifestyle and it’s miles down the road from his preferred home of in the Carolinas.  Briefly known as just Horses, BOH get classified as rock, but they’re really more roots and country.  Think 70’s John Denver, but way cooler.  Formed in 2004 in Seattle by Ben Bridwell, they’ve have released three studio efforts including 2010’s Grammy nominated Infinite Arms .The band’s line up, which included Mat Brooke for their debut album, has undergone several changes, although the current members, Bridwell, Ryan Monroe, Tyler Ramsey, Creighton Barrett and Reynolds have all been with the band for several years.

The band struck gold when the track “The Funeral”, form their debut Everything All the Time’s got picked up by the Networks for a number of series, films, video games, and even advertisements.  Plus an appearance on the Late Show with David Letterman, in mid 2006, didn’t hurt either.  By then without Brooke who by then Mat Brooke had left to form Grand Archives.  Reynolds remembers that Brooke was pivotal to “getting a show opening for Iron and Wine in Seattle.   Ben asked if (Brooke) would just come up and do a couple songs, just ’cause we’re friends. So…he did that. It was fun and then a couple of Iron and Wine tours came up…and then next thing we’re in the studio recording for (label) Sub Pop.”  When asked why Brooke left, Reynolds muses that he’d never really given the commitment to be a formal member – more just a spur of the moment…and Everything All the Time took off really fast.” Elsewhere Brooke’s commented that “it was still 100 percent Ben’s project and I kinda wanted to see what else I could do.”[

Roll on to today and Reynolds is talking to me about the band’s fourth studio album, scheduled for release this month, produced by Glyn Johns.   Mirage Rock‘s lead track “Knock Knock” bounds a long like a steam train, and reveals inspirations gleaned from recent tours with Willie Nelson, Jamey Johnson and John Reilly.  The Railroad Revival Tour was a one-of-a-kind U.S. train tour traveling on 16 vintage, 1940’s railcars with open air, and pop-up concert venues in parks around the tracks where they stopped.  “He he, it’s like being on your own train set.  A cool way to tour and way better than those seedy bars and stuff we’ve done in the past.  It suit’s us too because we can’t deny our leanings towards roots and country, style music.”  Asked if BOH should really be classified as Americana, Reynolds is a bit cagey.  “No, because all American music could be called that.  It’s a country of a vast rich culture.  We just play what’s real.”

Mirage Rock is out 13 September.  Streaming now on www.bandofhorses.com

Touring January  Wellington Town Hall  15th  / Auckland Town Hall  16th