Bob Mould ‘Silver Age' (Merge)
The recording studio has often been Bob Mould's confessional where he spills his guts with eloquence and super-volume power about personal angst, agonies, self-doubts and recriminations borne of a terminally unlucky love life, which is just what he did again on 2009's “Life and Times.”
But what a difference three years can make. On “Silver Age,” Mould shakes off his somber and reflective mood with 10 blasts of the kind of aggressive wall-of-guitar pop that distinguished his latter-day work fronting Husker Du in the late '80s, and the more melodic but no less sonically assailing Sugar in the early '90s.
The walloping album opener “Star Machine” and the immediate follow-through of the title song are a double-barreled discharge of bright, hook-filled fretboard fury and Mould's earnest nasal tenor, all belying the customary thematic darkness of his lyrics, this time bemoaning the harsher realities of fame and immaturity rather than good love gone bad.
The album's first single, “The Descent,” continues the same highflying instrumental and vocal trajectory, sounding celebratory while the singer faces the fact that “my world, it is descending,” and the anthemic, mid-tempo “Steam of Hercules” is a magnificent display of Mould's deep, richly resonant, layered studio style that recalls Sugar's 1992 album masterwork, “Copper Blue,” which Mould has been performing in its entirety on tour.
Perhaps his electric solo dates opening for Foo Fighters in 2011 — and his nightly guest shots on that band's song “Dear Rosemary,” which he co-wrote — is the source of his reignition. Foo Fighters do owe a stylistic debt to the tuneful anger of Mould's best work.
Whatever rekindled the fire — revisiting “Copper Blue” or hanging with Dave Grohl — it's good to have the old Bob back.
— Gene Triplett