The term `Blowoff’ refers to the final match in a highly publicized pay-per-view pro wrestling event, and usually involves the culmination of a feud storyline. At first I thought it was a tongue-in-cheek joke that Bob Mould briefly worked as a scriptwriter for the WCW, but apparently it’s true. The term was also used as a reference, which is possibly the origin of the wrestling term as well, to the dénouement of a strip-show or “cootch-show” as it was called in the show, Carnivalé, where the female dancers go bottomless. So what does this have to do with Bob Mould and Richard Morel? Hell if I know, but this pair, one the guitar hero behind Hüsker Dü and Sugar, the other a house music mastermind behind mixes for such artists as Deep Dish, Madonna, New Order and Dido, has combined to create a duo named after the enigmatic term. Does this mean it’s their final standoff? Or did they record the whole thing bottomless. I don’t really want to know.
No, this is far from the first time that indie rock has been paired with electronica, but it’s one of the more interesting ones. Today’s music aficionados are more apt to think Postal Service when hearing of the combo, but those fans should listen with more open ears to Blowoff. “Hormone Love,” featuring the pop / hardcore guitars of Mould with the voice of Morel, sounds more like a Noel Gallagher fronted Oasis track had they been influenced by Keith Richards rather than John Lennon. It’s the perfect introduction to a neo-classic kind of pop record. “Here and Now” again finds Mould’s blistering guitar, but this time accompanied by his own vocals. It’s one of the few tracks on the CD that actually sounds like something from one of Mould’s other solo projects. The first evidence of any kind of blatant electronic processing appears in the third track, “Overload,” which is laden with atmospheric white noise behind the guitar track, and dance percussion. Think New Order or Revenge with a lower register vocal.
“Saturday Night All the Time” is full-on dance music, with Mould’s guitars relegated to disco strums; sounding like the Happy Mondays mashed up with Daft Punk, or possibly even LCD Soundsystem. “Life with a View” and “Man Keeps Winning” are two standouts, the former delicately bordering on cheesy ’90s R&B pop like Haddaway’s “What Is Love?”, but also U2’s Zooropa disco songs like “Lemon.” The latter recalls Electronic, the collaboration between guitarist Johnny Marr and vocalist / keyboardist Bernard Sumner. The chorus of “Feeling like William Tell…” is eerily reminiscent of “Getting away with it all my life…” “Lemonade” also shares a striking resemblance.
“Fallout” is another standout, another disco-fied Oasis track, complete with infectious backing vocals of `ba-ba-ba-bahhh,’ possibly the only similarity to anything Ben Gibbard related, echoing “The Sound of Settling.” The combination between the two musicians is at its peak in this particular song and could easily be a hit radio single, or maybe used in one of those crazy iPod commercials, this time for the video version with the line, “You don’t see the way that I see.” “Get Inside With Me” reminds me of another electronic / rock combo, that of David Bowie’s Earthling and the song “Little Wonder” with its rapid-fire BPM. “Beautiful” so echoes the Mondays’ “Loose Fit” that I had to do a double take.
So, what have we learned? We’ve learned that not all electro-indie combos equal the Postal Service and that Jimmy and `Gibby’ were not the pioneers of the style. We’ve learned that the sounds of the Happy Mondays, Electronic, Bowie and New Order are still alive within the hearts of Bob Mould and Richard Morel. We’ve learned that Blowoff is a well-orchestrated combination of the former’s genius guitar playing, the latter’s electronic savvy, and the pair’s pop sensibilities. We’ve learned that Mould used to write scripts for pro wrestling! But most importantly, we’ve learned about old-timey carnival strip-shows. And, really, doesn’t that make it all worthwhile?
David Bowie- Earthling
Happy Mondays- Pills, Thrills and Bellyaches