Thursday, September 06, 2012

Album Review: Silver Age

Title:  Silver Age (Merge Records, Amazon, iTunes, Interpunk)

Bob Mould's latest outing harkens back to his glory days (for lack of a better term) in Sugar and Husker Du.  Silver Age sounds like the logical next step on the road from Flip Your Wig to Copper Blue to File Under Easy Listening.  In other words, this is Mould at his absolute best.  For those unfamiliar with Mould's previous work, in the 1980's he sang and played guitar in Husker Du, the band that laid the seeds for what would eventually be known as grunge.  (Side Note:  The term "grunge" originally referred to bands such as Husker Du, Dinosaur Jr., the Pixies, Nirvana, Teenage Fanclub, and Buffalo Tom but eventually came to mean "any band from Seattle."  I'm using the term in its original sense.)  Husker Du took the raw energy of punk and injected a new sense of melody that drew influence from folk and classic rock.  In the early 1990s, Mould fronted the band Sugar for two of that decade's best records.  In-between those bands and since, Mould released a slew of solo records and recorded in the group Blowoff but often the material didn't hold up against the Husker Du or Sugar records.  Silver Age does and it does so in a mind boggling way.  Don’t take my word for it.  Here’s what Allison Stewart said in her review of Silver Age for The Washington Post –
“Silver Age” packs the visceral punch of prime Hüsker Dü, the sugar rush hooks of Mould’s early-’90s albums with Sugar and the introspection of his underrated solo work. Significantly, it arrives after the singer toured with the Foo Fighters, whose own albums owe a great debt to Mould’s post-Hüsker output. “Silver Age” is a reclamation project, in which Mould retrieves his sound from years of releases that were cranky, virtuous and mild.

These are smart, solid, well-crafted songs, propulsive and fast. Everything sounds pretty much the same, though the lyrics are tender and lecture-y in turn, with Mould giving the obligatory criticism of fame in “Star Machine” (pro-fame songs are for suckers, and Maroon 5) and revisiting his childhood in the musical memoir extension “Briefest Moment.”

The greatest thing about “Silver Age,” besides the fact that it exists, and there’s not a bad song on it, is that it’s the sort of album veterans like the now-51-year-old Mould usually don’t make anymore. After too many years gone, too many acoustic solo albums or Disney soundtracks or TV theme songs, most people give up hope; most of Mould’s contemporaries, like Paul Westerberg, say, were written off years ago. The real Return To Form is vanishingly rare. Which means that “Silver Age” isn’t just one of the great rock records of the year. It’s like seeing a ghost.

Silver Age is an absolute must for any Husker Du or Sugar fan, if not a must for any fan of great rock ‘n’ roll and power pop music.  This is easily one of the best records of 2012. 

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