BOTTOM LINE Using his power (pop) for good times
Indie-rock pioneer Bob Mould has used his recent albums to work through some serious issues.
The Husker Du and Sugar frontman wrote his “Beauty and Ruin” album after his father died and wrote “Patch the Sky” after losing his mom. For “Sunshine Rock” (Merge), Mould made a conscious effort to focus on happier themes.
If the album title wasn’t enough of a clue, there are also songs called “Sunny Love Song,” “Camp Sunshine” and “Western Sunset.” All that sunniness hasn’t blunted Mould’s edge, though.
“Thirty Dozen Roses” is as raucous as ever, with Jon Wurster pounding away at the drums and bassist Jason Narducy thumping along to show why the Foo Fighters have long idolized Mould. “What Do You Want Me to Do” is another hard-hitting triumph in the same vein as the Husker Du classic “Makes No Sense at All.”
However, it’s the softer moments of “Sunshine Rock” that show how much things have changed for Mould, who now makes his home in Germany. He approaches “Camp Sunshine” with childlike wonder, as he sings about the thrill of “the days I get to spend making music with my friends.” It’s a sweet change of pace, as is “The Final Years,” with a serene synthesizer riff and a groove reminiscent of Smashing Pumpkins’ “1979” that Mould crowns with dramatic vocals, like he’s channeling David Bowie or Peter Murphy.
Of course, not everything is lighthearted here. The single “Lost Faith” addresses a crisis of conscience, as Mould sings, “I’ve lost faith in everything, every thing” over a driving beat. But by the time he reaches the chorus, he offers hope, singing, “We all lose faith in troubled times, you know I’m gonna be right here.”
That line encapsulates the feel of “Sunshine Rock” and it also pays tribute to the comfort that Mould’s near-constant high level of craftsmanship has been for nearly four decades.