Yesterday was a brutal day. My stepfather has been having some issues with confusion lately, so I took it upon myself to take him to his doctor in order to get to the bottom of this. And, I just got the call back from his physician saying that his non-fasting blood glucose level was high. So, I now know why he was struggling. Hopefully, the doctor will prescribe something once they get his Hemoglobin A:1C results. I’m not sure that basing his treatment upon non-fasting blood samples is a great course of action, but I understand not wanting to stick the patient more than one time for some blood work. Now, I will simply wait for the medical directions.
In the meantime, I am awaiting the release of a handful of albums here within the next five or six weeks. First, the Prince Estate is finally releasing three excellent albums from his mid-2000s phase on purple vinyl for the first time ever: Musicology (2004), 3121 (2006) and Planet Earth (2007). Planet Earth was released the year my Indianapolis Colts won their Super Bowl while Prince performed arguably the greatest halftime performance of all-time. On the very same day (February 8), Bob Mould, formerly of Hüsker Dü and Sugar fame will release his long-awaited album, Sunshine Rock. Then, on March 1, Weezer will finally bestow upon us with their latest self-titled album that will commonly be known as The Black Album, due to its cover color. So, for this old rock music fan, the next few weeks will be exciting times.
In the meantime, I did come across an advanced electronic copy of that Bob Mould album, Sunshine Rock, of which I am patiently awaiting the arrival of a special red and yellow splattered vinyl version due to arrive here at my Central Indiana homestead. Normally, the new Prince vinyl releases would have me excited, but after listening to this advanced copy of Bob Mould’s upcoming album has gotten me very excited about this one.
First off, this is not your normal gloomy Bob Mould album. Since the man is around my age, I sense that Mould has reached that point in his life in which he is finally comfortable in his own skin. Since we have entered the second decade of the twenty-first century, Bob has been on a highly creative path. First, Mould released his excellent autobiography titled See a Little Light. Next, he was the subject of a terrific documentary See a Little Light: A Celebration of the Music and Legacy of Bob Mould. The film did an excellent job of placing his musical work into historical context. His solo work, along with his music from his days with Hüsker Dü and Sugar, are cited by artists such as the Pixies and Nirvana as huge musical influences. Hüsker Dü was known throughout the alternative music world as being one of the fastest playing bands ever, literally having recorded songs that lasted UNDER two minutes. And, not only were they fast, their sound was an abrasive form of the hardcore sound of Los Angeles, though the trio was formed in Prince’s hometown of Minneapolis.
After Dü’s demise, Mould released two great solo albums, his now-classic 1989 LP Workbook, which was a 180-degree turn toward a neo-folkie sound and his 1990 return to his punk roots Black Sheets of Rain. Then, for some reason, he started his short-lived heavy power pop band Sugar, who released two-and-a-half albums’ worth of excellent music, before returning to his outstanding solo career. Once again, it was during the twenty-teens, in which his solo career really began to spark, as he released three outstanding albums: Silver Age (2012), Beauty & Ruin (2014) and Patch the Sky (2016).
Which all leads us to this new album of his, Sunshine Rock. Generally speaking, this album seems to be something of a well-deserved victory lap for Mould. During this album, you hear songs which touch upon the music of all phases of Mould’s career. To this aging Power Popper, I am taken to Heaven immediately with the first song, “Sunshine Rock,” a three-minute throwback to his Sugar days. The second song, “What Do You Want Me to Do,” a perfect summation of life in a relationship, takes the listener back to his previous three albums which have cleaner punk songs that hearken back to his Land Speed Record days in the Eighties. I say this because the song is over in two minutes and 31 seconds.
The third song, “Sunny Love Song,” takes me back to 1987, because this song could be an outtake from Hüsker Dü’s studio swansong, Warehouse: Songs and Stories. Underneath all the feedback is a Beatlesque pop song that would have been found on that album. That song is followed by a trip to 1985 and a dose of Dü’s Flip Your Wig/New Day Rising days of the speed-punk thing slowly making commercial inroads. The song’s title is “Thirty Dozen Roses” and clocks in just under three minutes.
By the album’s fifth song, we now get to hear what Bob Mould had sounded like if he had recorded a New Wave song during the early Eighties. The song, “The Final Years,” even with its bleak lyrics, musically sounds as if our hero had recently discovered the Psychedelic Furs, Talk Talk or even The Church. Which only proves how great a songwriter Bob Mould is.
As we reach the half-way mark of this album, I noticed this pattern of Mould looking back at his musical career for inspiration, as the album’s sixth cut, “Irrational Poison” could lyrically and musically fit on his classic debut solo album Workbook. The use of the cello is the dead giveaway.
As we move onto what I assume will be the second side of the vinyl album version, we travel back to the Zen Arcade days of abrasive music covering up a terrific melody in order to immerse the listener into Mould’s anger. The song, “I Fought,” is what I would call a classic Mould song, since it has 1984 written all over it. “I Fought” is followed by a trip to Mould’s latest trio of albums’ sound, that of a pissed off elder statesman of rock music as he sings over an increasingly dense mix he calls “Sin King.” Not only is “Sin King” the album’s most intense song, it is also it’s longest song, clocking in just a couple of clicks under four minutes.
As we continue this musical trip through his career, Mould takes us to the later days of Sugar. On the song “Lost Faith” we hear the power pop of his Copper Blue Sugar days being married to Hüsker’s intensity, just as he did with Sugar on their last album, File Under: Easy Listening. As we move closer to the end of this terrific album, Mould goes back to his Workbook days for an acoustic look back upon his life which he calls “Camp Sunshine.” Mould actually wistfully looks back to see that the old days may not have been as bad as they seemed at the time. Plus, he still seems to be working out his reaction to his former Hüsker Dü partner, co-writer and drummer/singer Grant Hart’s recent death.
Finally, on the next-to-last song, Mould turns back to the future, as he does a grownup’s version of punk that he has been perfecting on his previous three LPs, called “Send Me a Postcard.” But, Mould wraps up this brilliant new album with another grownup song, this time bringing Sugar into the twenty-first century with “Western Sunset.”
Actually, I loved this Wayback Machine trip through Bob Mould’s rich and Rock & Roll Hall of Fame-worthy career, without this album being a compilation. I love how I could pick out every phase of his outstanding and influential career. If you did not know this, Hüsker Dü were musical peers of R.E.M., Minutemen, Black Flag, The Replacements, Camper Van Beethoven, Meat Puppets and the Dead Kennedys; yet, more importantly, they have been cited by members of Nirvana, Pixies, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Jane’s Addiction, among many others, as huge influences upon each artist’s sound.
Actually, I don’t care where Bob Mould searches for his inspiration. I am just glad he gives us new music every couple to enrich our lives. Let’s just say that Mould released this album at the right time in my life for me to relate to it. Thanks Bob!