You have to give Bob Mould credit; he’s not afraid to walk his own path.
After departing Husker Du in the late ‘80s, he went from cranking out loud,
dense pop songs to performing introspective, acoustic material on his solo
debut, Workbook. Since then, his music has been all over the place, with
highlights including the debut album by his new band, Sugar, as well as his
self-titled album of 1996, both released on Rykodisc. He even took a break from
’98 to 2002, spending 1999 and 2000 – and this definitely a “strange but true”
factoid here – writing scripts for the WCW (World Championship Wrestling).
And, yet, as strange as the latter entry of his resume might sound, it wasn’t
nearly as odd as Mould’s 2002 return to recording, Modulate, an album
which found him discovering his inner Pet Shop Boy and experimenting with
sequencers, vocoders, and all facets of computerized, electronic music. Despite
a few interesting results, the album is best described as a noble failure, but,
as ever, it found Mould unafraid to take chances with his music.
2005 brings us Mould’s Yep Roc Records debut, Body of Song...not a
greatest-hits, as its name might suggest, but a new studio album that manages to
incorporate most stylistic facets of his career to date. Opener “Circles” is
appropriately titled, as it feels almost like Mould has come full circle,
sounding as much like Husker Du as anything he’s done in a decade. Anyone who
breathes a sigh of relief at this point, however, is doing so prematurely; the
departure Mould took to the world of electronic pop is still a direction into
which he remains unafraid to swerve, as evidenced as quickly as on the second
song, “(Shine Your) Light Love Hope,” where he breaks out his vocoder once more.
When the third song, “Paralyzed,” rolls around, however, it’s like the return of
Sugar, where Mould puts as much power into a pop song as he did on “Your
Favorite Thing”...but there’s something different about it. After a few listens,
you realize that what Mould’s done is take his interest in the electronic sound
and blend it almost seamlessly with his tremendous ability to write guitar-pop.
He performs the same trick on “I Am Vision, I Am Sound,” with similarly
It’s not all about computers, though. “Gauze of Friendship” and “High Fidelity”
(not the Elvis Costello song) are both instantly reminiscent in feel of
Workbook, much as “Days of Rain” is reminiscent – perhaps not
coincidentally, given the similarity in their titles – to Black Sheets of Rain,
with its use of strings. “Best Thing” and “Missing You,” meanwhile, are pure
Sugar, with no electronic adjustments required.
Body of Song may not be the best album that Bob Mould has released in his
time, but it finds him back on a track that his fans are far more likely to
follow him down, that happy medium where he’s able to do what he wants without
sacrificing the familiar feel of his past work.