I've been pretty excited for a while now about the upcoming release of Bob Mould's autobiography (non-Bob Mould fans, stop reading now - there is nothing here for you). The reviews have started to come out and for the most part, they are pretty positive. I was reading a review by this guy and noticed that he'd compiled a top 10 Bob Mould essential listening list. Not to say that this guy is wrong but he is wrong. Rather than list albums, here are the songs you should hear which cover all bases of Mould's career from punk pioneer to despairing misanthrope to super pop merchant (be aware that even when writing this I changed the songs about twenty times so this is less than definitive):
Something I Learned Today - Zen Arcade (Hüsker Dü): The opening track on the seminal Zen Arcade, this highlights Bob's hoarse growl before he began to sing rather than scream. It also highlights his buzzsaw guitar sound and even though Grant Hart's drums sound like he's playing cardboard boxes, the song has an urgency and passion that sets the tone for the entire album.
I Apologize - New Day Rising (Hüsker Dü): In the year between Zen Arcade and New Day Rising, Mould's singing voice is infinitely improved and with great backing vocals from Hart, I think this is the blueprint for Mould's pure pop songs in the future.
Up in the Air - Warehouse: Songs And Stories (Hüsker Dü): While a number of Hüsker fans hate Warehouse, I think there are some great songs on here. The simple guitar motif recalls the 60's pop Mould adored and the sheer joy that this song exudes is amazing. Although, when you listen to the lyrics it's pretty obvious Mould is putting Grant Hart down:
Poor bird flies up in the air, never getting anywhere
And how much misery can one soul take?
Trying to fly away might have been your first mistake
Yeah, those guys really hated each other....
Whichever the way the wind blows - Workbook (solo): Bob's first solo album was a million miles from Hüsker Dü and was filled acoustic guitars, cellos and strings. Rightfully revered by fans, what most people weren't prepared for was the final song Whichever way the wind blows. Whatever inner turmoil Mould was struggling with at the time, this song is a primal cry of nihilism - all jagged guitars that scream and fight for attention, it can be a tough listen. This song was the precursor to Mould's bleakest work, Black Sheets of Rain which took this template and ran it into oblivion.
Walls in time - The calm before the storm (solo): It'd be very easy to choose Too Far Down or Hardly Getting Over It as a prime example of Mould's ability to unleash a beautiful acoustic ballad but I've always found this song very affecting. It doesn't really have a chorus as such but it is a beautiful song about love and loss. This song was released officially on District Line a couple of years ago but the version on this bootleg with just Bob and his guitar remains the definitive version to my ears.
Changes - Copper Blue (Sugar): Mould struck gold with Sugar gaining widespread acclaim and actual music sales which befitted one of the best pop albums of the 90's. All ringing guitars and solid hooks, Changes is one of the best songs of the indie tide that turned at that time. It also highlights Mould's ongoing inability to release a good video.
JC Auto - Beaster (Sugar): The flip side of Copper Blue was the ep Beaster where the summery pop of the former was melded with the darkness of the Black Sheets era. I have a bootleg of this song and it sounds as if the band is either going to explode or start attacking the crowd, probably both at the same time. Frightening.
Best Thing - Body of Song (solo): I think Body of Song is probably one of Bob's most consistent albums even if he does use more of the electronics he's been favouring in the later DJ years. Best Thing is the quintessential Bob song, the major theme being I wanted to be with you, you didn't want me and now I'm sad - urm by the way, fuck off because I'm way to good for you anyhow.
Very Temporary - District Line (solo): This is a gem towards the end of the District Line record. Just pure pop perfection - a million bands couldn't write a song this good.
The Breach - Life and Times (solo): This song immediately struck me when I heard it. The narrative is essentially an argument between two people, one slightly calm and the other is mad as hell. The push and pull between the eventual eruption of rage is mesmerising.
Good old Bob, can't wait to read the book.