List Inconsequential: Bob Mould Retrospective

List Inconsequential: Bob Mould Retrospective

bobmouldThis man has done everything, and with the recent release of Beauty & Ruin, still he gives us more. Between Hüsker Dü, Sugar and some incredible solo albums, Bob Mould approaches something like the alpha and omega of indie rock. Put your SST t-shirt on and join us as we take a look back at some of our favorite Mould tracks. Even now, this stuff still clotheslines you.

“JC Auto – Beaster”

Maybe the heaviest Sugar song, Mould buries a series of dispiriting confessions in an omnipresent buzz, admitting “I’ve done my share of drugs / I’ve done my share of speed” before conceding “I look like Jesus Christ/ Act like Jesus Christ/ I know, I know, I know, I know” as if it were some ultimate defeat. Sonically, it’s not terribly different from the rest of Sugar’s discography, but there’s a cutting nastiness to it, each “I know” ever more resentful. – Robert Rubsam

“Makes No Sense At All” – Flip Your Wig

The briefest of drum fills provides little warning before the song launches itself at your throat, but despite the waves of distorted rhythm, this song doesn’t rip out your jugular. Instead, it’s like an exuberant puppy, albeit with a nihilistic message. This song perfectly represents the cognitive dissonance of Hüsker Dü at this moment of the band’s history: a thrashy package tempered by Bob Mould’s laconic, but intensely focused singing, with poppy harmonies that soften the blow. – Jester Jay Goldman

“Lonely Afternoon” – Workbook

So often punk seems like this splattering rage that punches through walls – certainly some of Mould’s work feels that way – but his first solo record, Workbook, speaks to what that discord feels like when it’s afforded less of an exhibition. “Lonely Afternoon” is an introvert’s unrest. “I hear a pound, pound, pounding in my chest/ I hear a knock, a knocking sound.” For all of his expertise on noise, “Lonely Afternoon” sees Mould wrestling with the thunder of silence. – Stacey Pavlick

“Eight Miles High” – 7” single

The first Hüsker records were emotional outbursts barely contained in full-speed chaos. But even after Mould and his colleagues shaped intense musicianship into a supersonic structure, they could still let it all out. Here Mould and company use the Byrds’ Coltrane-fueled experiment as a template to hang their signature emotive chaos, its drug high transformed into an impossibly fevered emotional pitch that shakes that turns the soaring ‘60s into a nervous breakdown. – Pat Padua

“If I Can’t Change Your Mind” – Copper Blue

For years before Sugar put out their first album, Bob Mould’s songs were defined by outsized emotions and breakneck speed. On Copper Blue, Mould slowed things down and allowed his melodic gifts to shine, and it made for a lot of great songs and one classic in “If I Can’t Change Your Mind.” You can hear the influence of both Mould’s classic rock past and his Minneapolis contemporaries in the song, but what’s most remarkable is how he manages to preserve his unique lyrical perspective while broadening his appeal. Even though Sugar brought many changes for Mould commercially and creatively, he just couldn’t stop being himself. – Kevin Korber

“New Day Rising” – New Day Rising

“New Day Rising” is energy condensed into song form; a pure shot of adrenaline that creates a wave of uplifting triumph that would take most bands a full album to make. It would make more sense if this salvo of potent energy came from some massive piece of work, but “New Day Rising” thrives off of its simplicity. A few chords, a fuzzed out bass guitar combo and three words screamed like they were handed down by the god of punk. Perfection. – Nathan Stevens

“Explode and Make Up” – File Under: Easy Listening

“Explode and Make Up” is a strikingly tender rejection of a former lover built on Mould’s 12-string acoustic and a surprisingly clear electric lead. Mould expresses defeatism without an ounce of defiance, each “I hate you” weaker and weaker as he asks the unnamed other for a way out. Still, this doesn’t take the crunch out of Sugar’s power-pop arrangement, which never wallows for a moment. – Robert Rubsam

“Hardly Getting Over It” – Candy Apply Grey

A year after Flip Your Wig, Hüsker Dü made their major label debut and settled into an alt-rock sound that would better showcase their songwriting skills. In this one, Mould captures a wistfulness cut with the same fatalism he showed in “Makes No Sense At All.” But instead of that tune’s diffidence, he dives in his obsession with mortality, and his personal perspective and acknowledgment becomes a universal truth. – Jester Jay Goldman

“Walking Away” – Beaster

Bob Mould isn’t shy about admitting the influence My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless had on his Sugar-era work, particularly within Copper Blue’s outtake EP, Beaster. Of its six tracks, closer “Walking Away” is a remarkable departure thanks in part to Kevin Shields. No guitars here, squall has been exchanged for smear. Keyboard tones bend and waver and vaporize just enough to disorient, while its lyrical mantra emphasizes this unsteady incoherence: “Walking away back to you I do.” A baroque, stately keyboard melody whistles through, and no matter if this is remembrance, promise or dream, the delivery is sublime. – Stacey Pavlick

“See a Little Light” – Workbook

It has chiming guitars and an infectious chorus, and I could be describing a Hootie and the Blowfish hit for all you know. Compared to Hüsker Dü and Sugar, it may as well be. But despite corny MOR lyrics like, “As the years go by/ They take their toll on you,” this is one of Mould’s greatest mid-career melodies, a sober comedown to the emotional highs he put himself and listeners through over the years. Even punks have to grow up. –Pat Padua

“I Apologize” – New Day Rising

In many ways, “I Apologize” is vintage Bob Mould; the song contains so much about what would eventually define him as a songwriter, both within Hüsker Dü and later on in his career. Mould lays everything out here, his frustration–directed at himself and someone else–propelled by the driving force of the band around him. Mould would definitely write angrier and faster songs than “I Apologize,” but few songs, if any, were as perfect a summation of his songwriting skill as this one. – Kevin Korber

“Needle Hits E” – Besides

Why “Needle Hits E” was relegated to a B-side, I’ll never understand. The flip side to the “Helpless” single, “Needle Hits E” latches onto the automotive motif found on Copper Blue’s “Slick.” But where that has a trudgier beat, “Needle Hits E” is just one more example of Mould’s mastery of power pop. His guitar work slides and fizzes like a mouthful of Pop Rocks. A rival to “If I Can’t Change Your Mind,” this underappreciated track is proof enough that the guy never runs out of gas. – Stacey Pavlick

Leave a Comment