Bob Mould

Picture of Bob Mould

Workbook

Bob Mould - Workbook ©1989 Virgin
1. Sunspots
2. Wishing Well
3. Heartbreak A Stranger
4. See A Little Light
5. Poison Years
6. Sinners And Their Repentences
7. Brasilia Crossed With Trenton
8. Compositions For The Young And Old
9. Lonely Afternoon
10. Dreaming I Am
11. Whichever Way The Wind Blows

After the spontaneous combustion that was the breakup of Husker Du, Bob Mould took retreat in the studio and ended up creating one of his finest works ever with his first solo album, Workbook. The direction Mould took for this recording represents a rather vast jump from the noisy guitar power pop of Husker Du as Workbook is an exceptionally introspective record featuring a plethora of acoustic guitar, cello and quieter, more atmospheric and spacey music. The album features contributions from Anton Fier on drums, whose Golden Palominos Mould has occasionally recorded with, and bassist Tony Maimone (Pere Ubu and They Might Be Giants). The cello is provided by Jane Scarpantoni throughout the album, adding a wonderful extra dimension to the powerful songs.

Workbook, as stated above, relies heavily on pensive acoustic guitar throughout much of the album. Mould rarely turns up the intensity knob to ten (with the exception of the noisy album closer, "Whichever Way the Wind Blows") yet there is a brooding sort of magnitude being achieved by detouring the usual means of songwriting. More importantly, Mould achieves both a timeless catchiness in his melodies as well as enough hooks to keep the songs stuck in your head well after the album is done playing. Possibly the best moments on this disc are in the interplay between the guitar and cello, such as the chilling "Sinners and Their Repentences". "Dreaming, I Am" is one of Mould's all time best compositions with just some very strong arrangements and guitar playing. Nearly every song on here is at least darned good if not stunning. Whatever emotions were stirring in Mould after the Husker Du breakup were obviously best served by shutting down the electricity and letting himself express his music in a different way. The result is such a moving and powerful record that it still stands as my favorite recording ever from Bob Mould.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 01/2001

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Black Sheets Of Rain

Bob Mould - Black Sheets Of Rain ©1990 Virgin
1. Black Sheets Of Rain
2. Stand Guard
3. It's Too Late
4. One Good Reason
5. Stop Your Crying
6. Hanging Tree
7. The Last Night
8. Hear Me Calling
9. Out Of Your Life
10. Disappointed
11. Sacrifice/Let There Be Peace

For whatever reason Bob Mould has long been the slightly forgotten godfather of much of the music that passes for alternative and punk today. His fully unique and unusual approach to his guitar has been a direct or indirect blueprint for so many bands today, using his Husker Du days as a checkpoint. However - and this is not to downplay his amazing work in his original band - the man truly hit a creative stride in his first two solo records. The first one, Workbook, was a very pensive and brooding record while his second, Black Sheets of Rain, was a more expected piece of work as it reintroduced the harder edged Bob Mould. Lyrically, the album is very very bleak and despondent, as the songs all deal with the breakup with a loved one.

Black Sheets is indeed a dark record that is terribly introspective and honest. Perhaps moreso than is comfortable with some of the lines. But frameworked within the stellar songwriting, the stark loneliness and heartfelt pain of the lyrics becomes manageable. Mould picked out a solid lineup to back him up: bassist Tony Maimone and drummer Anton Fier (with whom Mould has contributed on Fier's The Golden Palominos project). The band comes across as a bit of a forerunner to Mould's Sugar project, which succeeded this album.

The main strength of Mould's songwriting on Black Sheets is his undeniable ability to both create a unique sound that still retains a certain pop sensibility, all without compromising artistic integrity. Songs like "Stop Your Crying" and "One Good Reason" are meaty, catchy and still able to give the listener something new on each listen. Mould's guitar playing is so layered and thick that it's a wonder that more people don't fall to his feet in worship. Regardless, Black Sheets of Rain is a truly deep and sincere record that is just one more reason to give Mould the respect he so richly deserves. Any of fan of either Husker Du or Sugar owes it to himself or herself to include the first two solo albums in a record collection.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 05/1999

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Poison Years

Bob Mould - Poison Years ©1994 Virgin
1. Black Sheets Of Rain
2. It's Too Late
3. Stop Your Crying
4. Out Of Your Life
5. Hanging Tree
6. Sacrifice/Let There Be Peace
7. Wishing Well
8. See A Little Light
9. All Those People Know
10. Compositions For The Young And Old (live)
11. If You're True (live)
12. Poison Years (live)
13. Brasilia Cross With Trenton (live)
14. Shoot Out The Lights (live)

Poison Years comes across as nothing more than a cash cow and contractual obligation for Virgin Records. Bob Mould had already cast his future with Ryko and apparently had unfinished business with the label that released his first two solo records. With only two records to work from, Poison Years is hardly a necessary compilation as it reprises much of Black Sheets of Rain, a couple tracks from Workbook and five live tracks. Do you see the burning necessity for this album? I didn't think so, either.

The album also lacks an interesting sequence of tracks. The first six selections are from Black Sheets of Rain, but frankly, the songs are properly represented on the original studio release and chances are most Mould fans already have that record. The listener has to sit through nine previously released tracks before hearing something that is not found on either of the two solo records. "All Those People Know" is actually a great song and comes across more along the lines of Mould's post-Sugar solo material. The live tracks have a decent sound quality, but are hardly demanding of your immediate attention. Most of the songs originate from Workbook, although "If You're True" and "Shoot Out the Lights" are not from there.

Poison Years is very obviously a pathetic attempt to get one last product out for profit by the record label. The inclusion of a tribute essay honoring Mould's place in the music world and the skimpiness of unreleased material make this entirely unnecessary at list price.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 10/2000

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Bob Mould

Bob Mould - Bob Mould ©1996 Rykodisc
1. Anymore Time Between
2. I Hate Alternative Rock
3. Fort Knox, King Solomon
4. Next Time That You Leave
5. Egøverride
6. Thumbtack
7. Hair Stew
8. Deep Karma Canyon
9. Art Crisis
10. Roll Over And Die

Proclaiming in the liner notes, "This one is for me", Bob Mould truly returned to the solo world with this self titled release in 1996, a CD that is commonly known as the "hubcap" album due to the cover art. Apparently the pressures of being in a band again had gotten to Mould, causing him to disband the project in 1994 and the result is this catharsis of sorts. Mould put himself entirely in control on this album, writing, producing and playing every single note. The only help comes from an engineer in the studio and a drum machine. Subsequently, the album has a slightly distant edge to the music, one that never quite allows the listener to fully be engulfed in the same wave of emotion controlling Mould in the creation of the sounds.

Bob Mould has both elements of his earlier solo efforts and of course, Sugar. The moods oscillate wildly between the bitter and scathing declaration of "I Hate Alternative Rock", the very genre of which his first band, Husker Du, helped create the foundation and quiet desparation of "Thumbtack". In the middle there are variations of the two themes, but throughout the album it is very apparent a burr of some sort had gotten into Mould's britches and the album was his only avenue of recourse.

This album mostly seemed to be an attempt to create music for the purity of it and not for any extraneous, outside influence that the music industry tends to bring along. Bob Mould is not exactly the warmest of records, nor the best example of his solo works, but as with nearly everything the man has been involved in over the course of music history, it demands a spot in your collection simply out of respect for the man's incredible talent and skill.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 01/2001

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Modulate.

Bob Mould - Modulate. ©2002 Granary Music
1. 180 Rain
2. Sunset Safety Glass
3. Semper Fi
4. Homecoming Parade
5. Lost Zoloft
6. Without?
7. Slay / Sway
8. The Receipt
9. Quasar
10. Soundonsound
11. Homery
12. Comeonstrong
13. Trade
14. Author's Lament

It has been quite some time since the world has heard from Bob Mould. His last solo album, The Last Dog and Pony Show, was released nearly four years ago and during that time we have seen our favorite guitar rock pioneer perform his last tour as a full electric band. Moreover, Mould has spent time writing for the WWF as well, which certainly is quite the departure from playing angsty, feedback drenched guitar rock. However, Mould has finally resurfaced into the musical world with what is reportedly to be the first of three releases in the coming year. Although Mould has been relatively quiet during the past few years, he's obviously been quite busy at work.

Those who remember the throw-off track, "Megamanic", from The Last Dog and Pony Show are going to either a) going to be well prepared for Mould's next move or b) entirely shocked, for Bob Mould, the man often referred to as the creator of the blueprint for modern alternative guitar sound, has dived headfirst into the world of electronically based music. Without a doubt Modulate is going to create not just ripples, but entire crashing waves in Mould's fanbase as this is definitely a major departure for a man known almost exclusively for playing guitar. But fear not. Moby, he ain't. Nor is he Fatboy Slim, Orbital or Aphex Twin, even. While Modulate is a hit or miss affair typical of someone working through a new style, it still retains the unique Bob Mould flavoring and overall style that he's developed over the years. His usage of electronics stands to the side of the usual techno monobeats that some may attest to anything referred to as "electronic". In other words, Mould goes about performing his great songwriting skills using keyboards, samplers and synthesizers rather than completely attempting a whole new style. Modulate has a typical dark pop overtone that Mould has always been able to work up. If nothing else, Mould's vocal melodies are pure Mould, as well as the lyrics. A few tracks still include guitar playing, but they are not the major focal point. Instead, the creation of songs through electronic means seems to be on top of Mould's agenda for Modulate. And by record's end, a few tracks stand out as very well developed and entirely enjoyable: "Sunset Safety Glass", "Trade" and "Lost Zoloft".

There are moments on Modulate that sound a bit underrealized and/or developed. As with anyone attempting a new project or getting his head around a new idea, the early experiments are often hit or miss. It takes time to learn from one's successes and mistakes. There's a good chance Modulate will be the least interesting of the three albums promised this coming year. Regardless, it's still an intriguing and unusual departure for Bob Mould and still contains more than enough great music to appeal to listeners. Purists and punkers may be offended but there's no pleasing everybody.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 03/2002

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Body Of Song

Bob Mould - Body Of Song ©2005 Yep Roc Records
1. Circles
2. (Shine Your) Light Love Hope
3. Paralyzed
4. I Am Vision, I Am Sound
5. Underneath Days
6. Always Tomorrow
7. Days Of Rain
8. Best Thing
9. High Fidelity
10. Missing You
11. Gauze Of Friendship
12. Beating Heart The Prize

In 2002, Bob Mould, well known for his exceptionally loud guitar escapades in Husker Du, Sugar and his own solo efforts, took a sharp left turn into more electronically based music, a move that undoubtedly shook the foundations of rock purists everywhere. 2002's Modulate was actually a fairly good record. The one prevailing facet of Mould's work is his songwriting is uniquely identifiable, whether he's rocking out in a power trio format, dinking around on synthesizers or leading a Bulgarian brass polka band.

Cue to 2005. Bob Mould has returned with a long awaited follow-up to Modulate. Body of Song features a bit of a return to the more traditional guitar oriented music of Mould's career. Moreover, for the recording sessions, Mould invited Fugazi's Brendan Canty to lay down the percussion tracks. This is nothing short of a brilliant move. If you're going to have a live drummer, why not get one of the best rock drummers on the planet? Body of Song unavoidably sounds like a Bob Mould record. As with Modulate, Mould's songwriting vision shines through like a cop's maglite being trained on a amorous couple in the backseat of a Camaro. Mould retains some of the elements of experimentation from Modulation, but in a much more subtle manner. Body of Song is a throwback to earlier works (perhaps a mix between his self titled CD and The Last Dog and Pony Show) with a nod to his interest in electronic influences. The album does perhaps have a bit too much material as the latter half drags just a bit. But on the whole, Body of Song is solid Mould, showcasing his amazing songwriting talent and brooding rock music.

Collectors should note there is a limited edition two CD edition containing a bonus disc of remixes and extra tracks. The material is quite good and worth tracking down if you don't mind spending a few extra bucks.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 03/2006


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