You wouldn’t think that one of the most influential and legendary guitar heroes would have the simple name of Bob. They have names like Jimi, Stevie, Jimmy, and hell, even Eric. But Bob? Yes, without Bob Mould it’s hard to imagine that there could have been a Pixies, Jawbox, or even Nirvana, because it was his band Hüsker Dü that was the influence for guitar and angst driven alternative punk in the late eighties and early nineties. Furthermore, his band Sugar was even more successful commercially! Yes, a man named Bob is a guitar guru, and for a brief time he gave it up for electronic music with his 2002 album, Modulate. With Body of Song, Bob’s back, and he’s brought kick ass Fugazi drummer Brendan Canty and Sugar bassist David Barbe with him!
After all the recent music with pianos, jangly guitars, and whispered effeminate vocals, Mould comes roaring back into the spotlight, guitars a-blazing, as if to say, “this is how the instrument should be played, and this is what rock sounds like.” One of the few exceptions to this is the second track, “(Shine Your) Light Love Hope,” which finds Mould singing Cher-like vocodered vocals over a disco like track. The album is not just guitars, however. Keyboards, electronic processing, and other instruments all add layers to the mix, representing the different eras of Mould’s career. The heavy guitars represent the first stage, the thoughtful, yet aggressive lyrics the second, and the electronics the third.
The name of the game with Bob Mould is restrained power. There’s a sense that every song on this album could explode with unbridled aggression, but through his tempered and masculine voice, the tight rhythm section, and the guidance of a wall of sound created by Mould’s guitars, everything is kept at a speed just under escape velocity. Songs like “Circles” and “Paralyzed” are pure Mould, but at times he can evoke other artists as well. “I am Vision, I am Sound” cribs not only the title from David Bowie, but also some of his later musical style, sounding like a refugee from Outside. “Underneath Days” is one of the most enjoyable rock songs I’ve heard in quite some time. I was immediately reminded of great guitar bands of the past like Jawbox, Big Black, and Helmet. It’s not as aggressive, perhaps, as those bands, but equally as driving, and with an element of pop hook that make it signature Bob Mould.
The album is called Body of Song for a reason. Mould uses this time to look back on his long career in music, at what he’s accomplished, as he looks to his next project. For the first time, Mould will tour and perform songs from every stage of his career, Hüsker Dü, Sugar, and his solo work, with a full band. On an almost completely different topic, I was amazed to hear a teenager the other day pick up a Fiona Apple CD and wonder who she was. It saddens me even more to know that most people don’t know who Bob Mould is, but it’s almost guaranteed that most of them would recognize the theme to Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, which Mould penned. Mould’s music and influence are near legendary, and sadly, for the most part, unappreciated by the masses. Body of Song is a celebration of Mould’s music, fierce, open, and take no prisoners.