by Chris Familton
Since his days in seminal US punk band Hüsker Dü in the 1980s, Bob Mould has led a varied path from the introspective Workbook to the anthemic raw guitar sound of the band Sugar in the mid 90s. He also briefly worked as a professional wrestling scriptwriter, penned a memoir and dabbled in DJ’ing and electronic music. There were solo albums released every few years but with the release of Silver Age if finally feels like a return to the energy and essence of what makes Bob Mould such a respected musician.
This is an album that signals its arrival with an ominous guitar chug and metronomic drumming before launching into a sonic rush that barely lets up for the next 38 minutes. It almost sounds like Mould found himself with ideas tumbling out at such a speed that he had to quicken his pace to capture as many of them as possible. He matches the energy levels of the music exceptionally well, never standing still long enough for any riff or chorus to outstay its welcome. There is still a punk element to Mould’s songs but certainly not as relentlessly dissonant or raw as many of those he wrote during his time in Hüsker Dü. Instead they are fairly straightforward punk pop songs and at times, as on the title track, they veer close to the brisk punk rock dispatches that always pepper Pearl Jam and occasionally Lemonheads albums.
The relentless pace of the songs makes Silver Age an intense and intensive listen. There is little space in the music as nearly every gap is filled with drums, bass and distorted guitar gluing it all together. Mould’s vocals are in simpatico with the instruments, riding them and often just hanging on. Steam Of Hercules provides a four minute period of respite in the middle of the album and is one of its highlights. Sonically it still maintains the intensity of the rest of the record but it is slowed and stretched and at certain points melodically doffs its hat to Sugar songs like Hoover Dam.
This is without doubt a return to the kind of form that most people associate with Mould yet the unrelenting rush and density of the songs does leave you feeling exhausted. The way he incorporated acoustic guitars on Sugar’s Copper Blue gave those songs a wider spectrum of sound and that would certainly have added textural variation and give Silver Age a longer shelf life. That aside, this is still a very good batch of songs from Mould and from watching video of him performing some of them live it is clear they’ve unlocked a new musical lease of life for him after 33 years in the game, making this album a win win situation for both Mould and his fans.
this review was first published on undertheradar.com