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Bob Mould
Beauty & Ruin
Merge Records

Beauty & Ruin is guitarist/singer/songwriter's Bob Mould's 10th studio album since his 1989 solo debut, Workbook. Somewhere in there (1992-1995) were the blistering and intense Sugar years (alongside bassist David Barbe and drummer Malcolm Travis), as well, so our man Bob has had some fruitful years, but also some ups and downs as well, for sure, since the golden age of Hüsker Dü. Those were the days... They launched six (!) studio albums (of which two were double albums!) in four (!) years, topped and ended with Candy Apple Grey and Warehouse: Songs and Stories. We haven't checked upon Bob (I didn't dare to say 'his Bobness', as Mould is almost like a Dylan for the punk and indie generation) since his Last Dog and Pony Show (1998). About time then to revisit the man, his electric guitar, his effect pedals, and his songs.

Bob Mould grabs, handles and deals with grief and loss this time. Well, his songs and albums have usually dealt with the darker sides, or shades of life's harsher reality, or the hard knock life. Beauty & Ruin has been described as a 'compact epic', packing a 'staggering lifetime's worth of emotion and experience into a 36-minute package' ; Beauty & Ruin is a 36-minute long/short album holding 12 songs. As on his last album, the acclaimed Silver Age (2012) Mould is fronting a trio (he's always been a trio man!): bassist and backing singer Jason Narducy (of power pop band Verbow) and Superchunk's excellent drummer Jon Wurster. This threesome (who's the same line-up as on Silver Age - they toured and celebrated the 20th anniversary edition of Sugar's Copper Blue, as well). Well, Mould has entered his fourth (!) decade as an artist, and is one of the most of the most influential alternative singer-songwriters in the US. Hüsker Dü is a name to remember in the US indie scene from the pioneering 1980s. Respect. Both Pixies and Nirvana can thank the Minneapolitan trio. A lot.

Mould for sure has a signature way of writing songs. It is not hard to pinpoint a Mould song in a pop-quiz. Mould is also short and to the point. Twelve songs, finished in less than 37 minutes. Most songs clocking in at less than 3 1/2 minutes. "Little Glass Pill" (or "Tomorrow Morning", or "Fix It", for that matter - there are several candidates) is a trademark, powerful Mould rocker, which could have been written and performed during his late Hüsker Dü years, his Sugar years, or any of his solo years. It is a high-octane intensity song. Same goes for the catchier "I Don't Know You Anymore". It is sounding so Bob Mouldish. The song writing, the melody, the voice, the guitar, the sound - everything. Bob Mould. Period. "Kid With Crooked Face" is another energetic song, with the BOB MOULD GUITAR riff; the slightly distorted twang, the punch and the drive. In songs like "The War", "Hey Mr. Grey", and the aforementioned "Kid With...", Mould is in a youthful, fighting position, while he with songs like "Forgiveness" and "Nemeses Are Laughing" aims from (it sounds) a more forgiving, thoughtful mode/mood (it's been said that Beauty & Ruin deals with the passing of Mould's father in October 2012). Yet, most of Beauty & Ruin sounds fresh and headstrong.

Even though there are (to my pair of ears) a couple of weaker tracks, it is quite refreshing to hear Bob Mould again. Merge Records calls him "...relevant, ferocious, and poignant". True words. The man keeps on firing his guitar, overheating his amps, blasting riffs throughout a powerful melodic sound, while circling the intersection between loud and beautiful. He never grow older, and he never say die. Thank you for that, Bob. Flower plower!

Copyright © 2014 Andy Apple Grey e-mail address

You may also want to check out our Bob Mould articles/reviews: Last Dog and Pony Show, Patch The Sky.

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