Monday, June 2, 2014

Bob Mould- Beauty and Ruin

This will have to be a "first pass" kind of review- I generally take about 20 listens to fully appreciate a Bob Mould record, and I've only had eight go-rounds with this one.
The nutshell is this- musically, this has exactly the Bob Mould record I want- folk song structure, with passing chords, and complex melodies, but clearly made for noise and probably composed on an electric guitar. Lyrically, Bob is still in his "grandpa" phase, all philosophical remembrances and reflections, with a few platitudes re-examined, but his inspiration seems lacking.
I still think Silver Age will stand as a better LP, but this one is less for the marketplace, and more for the fans. How do I know? Because it musically reflects his slightly harder-to-love side- Stuff like the Beaster Ep, the "Hubcap" LP, and "Dark Sheets of Rain" albeit with a much better production than any of those. Looked at from that prism, the worst track on here is the obvious single: "I don't know you anymore"- and think about what that says- the most pop track is also the most resigned.
Meanwhile, I could listen to opener "Low Season" on repeat- it's the most disconsolate on the record, and is all suspended fifths and drones, like a Richard Thompson song, but with sonic guitars.
Second track threatens to be a "Beaster" slow burn, until the second bar when it accelerates into a pissed off punk riff- like the Wipers gone on a Stooges bender. Absolutely gorgeous to me- so, yes, "Little Glass Pill" is, again, the Bob Mould I want to hear. "The War" is another great folk-gone Punk track, that, again, could find a home on "Beaster" or "Black Sheets of Rain" ( it reminds me of that LP's B side) .  And "Forgiveness" has Bob finally getting an acoustic sound that I actually really like, not just accept because the song is so good.
Much will be said about "Kid with Crooked Face" by people who weren't there. In no way does this sound like hardcore era Huskers. At best, it's like a track on "Candy Apple Grey" when the band was just referencing who they used to be.
I like "Fire in the City" but lyrically, it doesn't seem, at first blush, like Bob's "A grade" work- and it reduces the song to a thing that reminds me of Evan Dando.
In a different way, "Tomorrow Morning" is a slight let down, too- the last bridge is a needless callback to his Sugar riffing, that struck me, even then, as filling in a song, when he didn't really have it all the way written.
And then less said about "Hey Mr Grey" the better. Of the eight times I've played the LP, I've skipped this track six times. Not my favorite track. Also, the penultimate track? "Let the Beauty Be"?' I'm trying, here, but it's reminding me of a smart guy I used to know, who had embarrassingly bad musical taste. Few things have even been so uncomfortable as watching that guy singing along to "Sweet Home Alabama" trying to imbue every word with a better meaning than it had. This collection of homely homilies reminds me of that.
So, it's premature- maybe I'll warm up more, later, but right now? I'd call it a collection of B sides, and rough sketches, with a handful of really rewarding tracks...

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