Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Bob Mould - Silver Age Review

(It seems the formatting killed blogger yesterday so here's the review without it).

In a recent interview, Bob Mould talked about how being a guest on the Foo Fighters tour reinvigorated his approach to guitar music. As he says in the interview:

(The Bob Mould Band and Foo Fighters are) doing some shows together in Europe, so that will be fun. I love hanging with those guys. That had a lot to do with “Silver
Age” is what it is too. 

It had a lot to do with “Silver Age?”

Just in terms of getting up in front of 15,000 people and playing rock. It's sort of like, “Oh, that's right, I'm really good at this; I did this for years.”

No doubt touring Copper Blue in it's entirety also helped because Silver Age proves that Bob Mould is, in fact, 'really good at this." Silver Age isn't the long lost Sugar album people have been claiming but it is definitely in that realm and rocks with a purpose and intensity that is only glimpsed in Mould's subsequent solo work but never really the focus anymore. If anything, it sounds like a joyous stomp through old ground. If I can give you an example of what I mean, when PJ Harvey released Uh Huh, Her, she said something along the lines of it was her attempt to recreate Rid of Me but from the perspective of a mature women with fifteen years extra experience. I'd argue that Silver Age is the same, it sounds like a Sugar record but written by someone with twenty years more experience.

The secret of a great Bob Mould song is that the chord changes, melodies and pace all interlock in an intuitive and joyous collision that somehow make the songs sound timeless, familiar and exciting. I think Silver Age is a more fluid listen as it has been constructed with Mould's touring band of the last five years and the sound is locked in like only a band who are comfortable and trust each other can sound. You can almost see Jon Wurster's goofy grin behind every beat (the drumming is stellar) and bassist Jason Narducy's sympathetic backing give the album cohesiveness and focus.

First single, The Descent, is the easy highlight here, a perfect pop song that sounds as great as it does on first listen but there isn't a dud in the collection. Opener Star Machine starts innocently enough but once the guitars turn to smoking lead and the chant of "You said!" starts, it is perfect in every way. This is followed by the title track which brims with zest and anger that puts many modern punk bands to shame. Steam of Hercules is a blissed out float of a pop song somewhere between the Beatles and My Bloody Valentine and is a song type we haven't really seen from Bob since the Sugar days. Angels Rearranged verses sounds like a muscular REM while the closer First Time Joy soars on an ebullient
outro. Even songs that sound like lesser highlights on first listen slowly give away their charms such as the chiming guitars that round out Briefest Moment and the half time collapse of Keep Believing.

Lyrically, it's usual Mould fascinations with love, loss and life but until I get a good look at the lyric sheet, it'll take some time to digest. However, both Star machine and Silver Age seem to be railing against the vapidity and class system of the music industry - we can definitely say age has not wearied him or his anger. As I said, there isn't a weak moment on the album and as a statement of intent and rock classicism, Bob Mould has served up a master class to his many, many progeny. Being a Mould fan, I could never have imagined this record would be this good but it is even better than I could have hoped. Most of all, this album is fun to listen to and promises much listening
pleasure in the years to come. The full album is streaming here.


Friday, August 17, 2012

While I'm at it...

The news that Paul Ryan likes Rage Against the Machine but not for their lyrics is like saying you like pornography but not for the fucking. Unless he was singing along imagining 'fuck you, I won't do what you tell me' was the new slogan for corporate America, this guy is an idiot. My mood just gets worse and worse today... I know you can like a band's sound but not their lyrics but c'mon, Rage Against the Machine?! It's pretty hard to ignore someone barking revolutionary slogans at you for an hour. Tom Morello's rebuttal is here and interesting to note the Republicans have just released his tax returns showing he pays fuck all tax even though he earns shitloads of money. What. A. Surprise. I'm logging off the Net for a few days before my brain explodes...


Free Pussy Riot

I woke up in a bad mood this morning and it got darker when I read that Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alekhina, and Yekaterina Samutsevich of Pussy Riot have been sentenced to two years jail. I make no secret of the fact I am a rampant leftie and am truly lucky that I can make 'outrageous' political statements like Tony Abbott is Satan and George Bush is a war criminal without going to jail. Sure, I might get beat up in the wrong crowd but incarceration, that's a whole other thing. The thing is, whether you're left, right or indifferent, you should be outraged by this because my crazy opinions are probably no more crazy than yours but at least (I assume), you're free to make them.

I can't begin to understand the complexity of life in Russia and while Putin pretends that it's a democracy (it isn't) and not a police state (it is), the sentence is an attack on both political activism and art. Were these women being disrespectful to the Church? Not at all. To Putin? Obviously and whether there were words to the judge or she just knew the 'right' thing to do in a tyrannical state, these three young women (aged 22, 24 and 30) will most likely serve two years in jail no matter what Bjork thinks. This will be the rub for me, once the initial outrage dies out they will languish in a Russian jail (which in my imagination does not sound like a holiday camp) without the ongoing support, activism and advocacy they deserve. I'm not sure how it can be sustained but I liked Kathleen Hanna's idea of the world being filled with Pussy Riot bands (Pussy Riot NYC, Pussy Riot Sydney, Pussy Riot Tokyo etc...) Whatever the answer is I'm on board.

Imagine if every punk band in Reagan's 80's faced similar consequences or if Riot Grrl had been violently crushed? This is as much about music, art and expression as it is about politics and if this doesn't make your blood fucking boil, then stop reading my fucking blog.


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Bob Mould - The Descent

Sometimes in life music acts like a real lifeline and at the moment, I desperately need a new Bob Mould record. Is it sad that I've been endlessly listening to the one and a half minute previews of the record on iTunes? Probably but now we have our first taste of the record and it's pretty great. Mould has said that he's been inspired by revisiting the Sugar catalogue and that's evident here coming across like the lead single File Under Easy Listening should have had (no disrespect to My Favorite Thing, a great song in its own right). The power of a great Bob Mould song is that they are incredibly straight forward pop-punk songs which you can pump your fist to while crying about your lost love. Mould always walks on the maudlin side and the lyrics here are pleading for forgiveness for some transgression as he wails "Can I try to make it up to you somehow?" The guitars pop, the backing vocals sigh and the whole thing rocks in a manner that brings joy to the heart, there's nothing more to be said.


Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Feistodon - A Commotion

While I fell in love with Feist's Metals record last year I made no secret of my dislike of A Commotion. It just sounded forced and weird but guess what? Mastodon might have turned that around for me. This is vaguely awesome and dude, the drums, the frickin' drums... Nice.