My exposure to Bob Mould dates back about 13 years, when the guy I was dating at the time (now my husband) would make me sit and listen to Sugar’s File Under: Easy Listening. Yes, I was also dragged to live shows, at least two of which were at the Fillmore in San Francisco, before Mould made his way up north to our hometown, Sacramento, a few years ago to play at Harlow’s.
Somewhere along the way, what I used to think was nothing but noise became music I appreciated. Not rabidly, like some, but appreciated nonetheless. I even have “See a Little Light” (Poison Years); “First Drag of the Day” and “Skintrade” (The Last Dog and Pony Show); “Man on the Moon” (LiveDog98); “Circles,” “(Shine Your) Light Love Hope,” and “High Fidelity” (Body of Song); and “If I Can’t Change Your Mind” (Sugar — Copper Blue) on my iPod.
In short, I know a little Mould.
Some say Mould pioneered punk with his 80s band Husker Du, and others credit indie rock to Mould’s band Sugar. But what I like about Mould is that, at the age of 47, he’s producing music that appeals to several different musical tastes—from hard rock, to techno/dance, to adult alternative, to stream of consciousness/spoken word, Mould manages to humbly appeal to many.
Other than the last cut, “Walls of Time”, a song that didn’t make 1989’s Workbook, District Line is new, fresh and full of attitude. Mould describes it as “stories of my simple life in a complicated town”, referring to Washington, D.C., where he lives. “This record really sums up the past five years of being here. These are funny stories about me and my friends – things I see or overhear. It’s been a very positive experience and District Line is my way of putting it down in a book.”
The album kicks off with “Stupid Now,” a catchy, classic Mould tune. “Who Needs to Dream” follows, with more of what you’d expect from Mould. “Again and Again” slows it down a bit and showcases Moulds range, both vocally and verbally, straddling the line between literal storytelling and music.
One of my favorite tracks, the techno “Old Highs New Lows,” has the kind of Mould sound I especially like, creating a techno-alternative ballad that you can sing along with. The danceable techno “Shelter Me” will most likely find its way to the club scene quickly. “Return to Dust” takes the techno a step further, adding crashing symbols and loud lyrics and guitar, as well as containing the very last lyric that was written for the album: “Growing old it’s hard to be an angry young man.”
The first single released on the album, “The Silence Between Us,” just so happens to be my other favorite track on the album and reminds me of Sugar’s “If I Can’t Change Your Mind.”
Rounding out the album are the rock and roll “Very Temporary,” the acoustic guitar and slight techno of “Miniature Parade,” and “Walls in Time,” which, although it’s almost two decades old, seems to fit well with this album’s sound.
While some may say that Mould has crossed over into mainstream territory, with his occasional techno tune and dance club sound, I say the man is playing to his strengths—strong guitar and meaningful lyrics, with a nod to the club scene thrown in for good measure.