There’s something endearing about those ego-centric teenage years whereby others taste in music was acknowledged and accepted so long as it fell within the parameters of my own fascist subjectivity, which was infinite. As far as I was concerned my trusty old Habitat bookcase was home to some of the most iconic and inspiring alternative rock records of the 1990s. Disagree with me and you were likely to be on the receiving end of a petty and ill-informed rant. There was also potential for tears.
Records by The Wildhearts, Therapy?, and the Senseless Things enjoyed pride of place on the top shelf next to my Aiwa midi-system; the display bookended by debut releases by Joyrider and Kerbdog. Related posters, cut-outs, and interviews clipped from my rock weekly of choice adorned my bedroom walls, charmingly arranged in a clumsy manner with a kilo of Blu-Tack. My parents didn’t let me use drawing pins because they left holes in the wall. I used to quite fancy Mark Keds.
Yet in spite of this quasi-hero worship, and the voracious devouring of every one of these bands releases (on every available format) I never really appreciated the levels to which they all worshipped at the melodic altar of Hüsker Dü.
Despite the plaudits, Hüsker Dü never really surpassed name-check status in my life until a chance encounter with a girl and the double gatefold ‘Zen Arcade’ in 1998; an experience so euphoric and defining that I have since sought out then worn out three copies of the vinyl. The girl? No idea.
Whether the breakneck power-pop of Hüsker Dü, his own inimitable solo recordings or the tight noise-pop beauty of Sugar, each release delivers his own sonic individuality, but traverse his discography and you will experience a lifetime of trials and tribulations, loss and remorse, joy and fulfilment through the eyes of another. Mould’s ability to map out his life through his art has always been remarkable; you gain a sense of the man, his strengths and his vulnerabilities.
What is most impressive with ‘Silver Age’, his tenth studio album, is his ability to effortlessly consolidate four decades worth of defining guitar-pop influence into ten vibrant tracks. It’s a triumph in itself; the record could essentially serve as a Bob Mould inventory. Buzzsaw guitars? Check. Raw vocals? Check. Stadium-sized hooks? Melody? Three minute pop song structure? Check. Check. Check.
On ‘Silver Age’, Mould sounds wholly revitalised, the genesis of which could be attributed to overseeing the recent Sugar reissues and seemed to occur organically after his appearance and co-writer credit on the latest offering from Foo Fighters, and accompanying tour.
‘Star Machine’ treads familiar ground as the coarse riffs and biting commentary on selling out soar over infectious guitar pop. ‘Silver Age’ is the elder statesmen who now demands respect from the youthful underlings; not so much an exercise in self-aggrandising but a positive sense of self. ‘Angels Rearrange’ is an equally punchy yet less rollicking affair, a lamenting tone segueing into a sublime fuzz-laden solo.
Placing lyrical content to one side for the moment, ‘The Descent’ is pure unadulterated power-pop complete with ringing harmonies. It immediately brings to mind a montage set in the Californian sun; a well-groomed young couple with impeccable teeth frolic through orange groves, fairgrounds, and the streets of San Francisco without a care in the world.
The dastardly postman soon appears to shatter their shared domestic bliss with scholarship confirmation for different colleges. Or one of them has dementia. It’s upbeat and shines brightly but it also evokes a feeling of the end approaching; happiness diminishing with the encroaching seasonal affective disorder. Time to return to rain soaked reality. “My world, it is descending”.
‘Silver Age’ is a record full of melodic intrigue and a barrel-load of hooks; a vociferous addition to his enduringly impressive back catalogue and undoubtedly his finest work since Sugar’s masterpiece, ‘Copper Blue’.
Posted: Sat 6 October 2012