(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.