CD Review of District Line by Bob Mould
Recommended if you like
Sugar, Paul Westerberg, Frank Black
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Bob Mould: District Line

Reviewed by Jim Washington

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B
ob Mould may be one of the most revered figures in indie rock, and with good reason.

He proves it once again on District Line, his eighth solo album and one of his best.

Fans will find a lot to love on the disc, which incorporates Mould’s amazing career – from the punk of Hüsker Dü to the pop of Sugar to the emotions of Workbook, with his recent fascination with electronica still in evidence as well. Mould has said he wrote the new album, which he calls “stories of my simple life in a complicated town,” in and about his new hometown of Washington D.C.

The title, cleverly complemented by a cover featuring symbols for the yellow and green lines of the D.C. metro, in Mould’s words refers to the line he gets from career-motivated district denizens – “what do you do for a living?” When he tells them he’s a musician, they quickly lose interest, he reports.

Despite the setting, Mould is more interested in emotional politics. Apparently D.C. has been a rough spot for Mould on the relationship front, based on the lyrics here. “Stupid Now” is a wonderful pop kiss-off. The song starts quietly, then the guitars kick in as he laments “everything I say to you seems stupid now” and “haven’t I been enough of a fool for you?” Mould plays with his voice on this song, at first electronically, then letting it slide into a nakedly emotional growl as he sings what sounds like an elegy for a doomed relationship.

It doesn’t get a whole lot happier from there, as song titles such as “Who Needs to Dream,” “Return to Dust” and “The Silence Between Us” attest. Even when he threatens to get uplifting, he quickly undercuts it – witness this passage from “Very Temporary”:

“Outside my window I see / A little robin that sings / A little song for me / In the morning I feel / Just like that bird in the tree / I make a nest out of twigs / But would you share it with me?”

The sentiment, while lovely and seemingly sincere, is brought down not only by the song title itself, but in the subsequent lines “just cut my heart out with a razor now.” Yikes. But isn’t it pain that inspires great art? Mould has been doing it for many years, and still does it better than most.

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