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Bob Mould – SWX, Bristol (October 8, 2016)

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Bob Mould – SWX, Bristol (October 8, 2016)

Posted on 10 October 2016 by Joe

“This is from the new album,” is usually a phrase met with a depressed sigh when uttered at gigs by an artist who has been releasing records for four decades.

Not so for Bob Mould, who is currently creating some of the best music of his long career and live is arguably more energetic than he was in the early 1980s, when as a plump young man with a flying V guitar helped create the whole, quiet/loud rock blueprint for grunge with his band Husker Du.

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His current band, of Superchunk and The Mountain Goats drummer John Wurster and bassist Jason Narducy, have been together for three albums, Silver Age, Beauty and Rain and Patch the Sky, creating a raft of new anthems to deservedly sit alongside his Husker Du favourites and 1990s indie pop classics with Sugar.

Across this lively 23 song set he moved seamlessly across his career, with new tracks such as Hey Mr Grey from Beauty of Rain, The Descent from Silver Age and Patch the Sky’s joyous ode to annihilation The End of Things greeted with just as much excitement as Sugar classics like Changes, A Good Idea and If I Can’t Change Your Mind as well as the Husker Du tracks that featured heavily at the beginning and encore.

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Mould and band started as they meant to go on with a frenzied, cobweb-clearing Husker Du hat-trick of Flip Your Wig, Hate Paper Doll and I Apologise.

The Sugar hits then followed and kept popping into a set that saw no let up in Mould’s clear enthusiasm for playing in front of a crowd, especially such an appreciative one as this. The band are loud too, and by loud I mean really loud, with Mould sporting not one but two giant Blackstar stack amps on stage, both going to 11 and beyond.

Aside from the Sugar tracks, the best of all was an extended, set closing version of Patch the Sky’s epic Black Confetti, which live is taken to a whole new level of intensity.

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For the encore Mould went back to his Husker Du days with a lovely version of Hardly Getting Over it, from Candy Apple Grey, the band’s first album from their ill-fated stint with Warner Bros Records. It was the only time the gain on his Fender Stratocaster was turned down all night.

Last track on his return took us back to the start and Husker Du’s breakthrough 1985 album Flip Your Wig, with arguably its best song, the anthemic Makes No Sense At All.

Afterwards Mould returned to the stage to thank the audience,  with his steamed up glasses the only hint that he’d just churned out a four decade career in an hour and 20 minutes.

A full set list can be found here.

Words and pictures by Joe Lepper

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Bob Mould October UK Dates

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Bob Mould October UK Dates

Posted on 15 September 2016 by Joe

Former Husker Du and Sugar frontman Bob Mould has announced five UK dates in October to promote the release of Black Confetti, the new single from his latest album Patch The Sky.

The album has already made our Top Ten Albums of 2016…so far list and after seeing Mould live last year this looks like a tour not to be be missed.

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As with last year’s UK tour joining Mould will be his regular band of drummer Jon Wurster (Superchunk, The Mountain Goats) and bassist Jason Narducy.

Mould says: “Apparently I’ve been given some special dispensation: how many musicians get to play loud rock at 55 and still have an audience? It’s amazing that people from so many different cities, countries, ages, and walks of life all continue to find something in common in my music.

“I take the art form very seriously; I appreciate being recognized for my efforts, and I’m incredibly grateful for the time I’ve had in the light. I like the brightness, and Lord knows I’ve got darkness covered.”

The dates are:

7th Oct Birmingham 02 Academy

8th Oct Bristol SWX

10th Oct Glasgow The Garage

11th Oct Sheffield The Leadmill

12th Oct London Brooklyn Bowl

Tickets are available here.

Black Confetti is released on October 7.

By Joe Lepper

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Bob Mould – Patch the Sky

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Bob Mould – Patch the Sky

Posted on 18 March 2016 by Joe

Bob Mould is in the prime of his career. And brace yourself Husker Du fans, his current band of Jon Wurster on drums and Jason Narducy on bass, is perhaps his best yet.

Patch the Sky is the third in a trio of albums released on Merge Records with this line up and comes at a time when Mould has long since embraced middle age and his sexuality. It’s a far cry from his younger, Husker Du days when his awkward frame struggled to fit into publicity photos. Now he looks like a man at ease with himself, bearded, bald and a darn fine looking chap.

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This stability shows in his music too,  with Silver Age in 2012 and Beauty and Ruin from 2014 showcasing two excellent sets of post punk, indie rock at its finest. Live as well the trio are superb, Mould bouncing around stage, stopping only to turn his amp up even louder.

Patch the Sky fits well into this trio’s ethos of presenting fast, powerful and above all catchy songs. There’s a twist though. He’s only human and in recent years he’s endured the all too common heartbreaks of life.

Mould explains

“I withdrew from everyday life. I wrote alone for six months. I love people, but I needed my solitude. The search for my own truth kept me alive. These songs are my salvation.

I’ve had a solid stretch of hard emotional times, and thanks for the condolences in advance. I don’t want to go into the details—more death, relationships ending, life getting shorter—because they’re already in the songs. Just listen and see if you can fit yourself into my stories. The words make you remember. The music makes you forget.”

Voices in My Head is a perfect example of this, with its lyrics of psychological angst coupled with a joyous melody,  especially on the guitar solo. This is among his best compositions in a career that is now in its fourth decade. Then on break up song The End of Things, the sombre subject matter is conveyed with a mosh pit inducing riff and a smart, catchy chorus. “It’s the end of things, the end of everything,” never sounded such fun.

There’s plenty more great melodies. You Say You rolls back the years to those days of Sugar and his later Husker Du work. Another is Hands are Tied, a minute and a half of great grunge-pop.

There are variances on the theme though. Losing Sleep has a little nod to Mould’s dalliance with dance music in recent years and final track Monument, the album’s slowie, is reminiscent of his early solo work such as Black Sheets of Rain and Workbook.

Given Mould has moved from punk to pop, from DJing to producing wrestling shows (yes, really!) his career has rarely been this stable. With tracks like Monument and Losing Sleep there are signs that the indie rock trio days of these three Merge Records releases may be moving on, but I hope not. On this evidence there’s plenty more to come from Mould and his most settled, and perhaps best, band to date.

9/10

by Joe Lepper

Bob Mould – Patch the Sky is released on March 25 on Merge Records.

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Bob Mould – Silver Age

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Bob Mould – Silver Age

Posted on 11 October 2012 by Joe

The former Hüsker Dü and Sugar man has gone back to basics for his first album in three years. Amid an eclectic career, which has included devising TV wrestling shows and DJing, Mould has returned to what he does best for this album; fronting a three piece indie rock band with his gigantic voice and crunching guitar.

Jon Wurster, Bob Mould, Jason Narducy (l-r)

Settling in nicely as the godfather of indie rock Silver Age is an unashamed success, packed full of the strong melodies of the best of his Sugar and Husker Du output. Having a band he clearly trusts to carry his songs helps, with indie rock’s go to drummer Jon Wurster (Superchunk, The Mountain Goats) and bassist Jason Narducy giving this album a vibrancy and sense of youth that masks his 51years. Watching Mould tumble around the Letterman studio last month, he still looked like the 20 something from Minneapolis with a flying V guitar in Hüsker Dü, even though the hair is greyer and the guitar has long been upgraded to a blue Fender Stratocaster.

The Descent takes the coveted third track slot, reserved for the lead single on all Mould’s albums, and deservedly so. On a par with Sugar’s If I Could Change Your Mind with its ascending chords and life affirming lyrics it is already among Mould’s best singles. Releasing it ahead of the album has also helped the album skirt the Top 50 in the US Billboard charts, no mean feat for a middle aged man and an album of just drums, vocals, bass and guitar.

But even singling out The Descent seems somehow odd, when the album’s strength is the consistency across all 10 tracks. From the crunching guitar intro of opener Star Machine to the build up on final track First Time Joy the album is full of rage and melody, to paraphrase the title of his recent illuminating autobiography.

Now signed to Merge records, Mould has clearly found the right label to work with as he continues to enjoy influencing the young and reminding older music fans of his talent. The label is also managing the reissues of Sugar’s albums, something that has clearly rubbed off on Mould in creating Silver Age.

9/10

by Joe Lepper

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Jamiesaysmile – Day Three

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Jamiesaysmile – Day Three

Posted on 07 August 2012 by Joe

With a big voice reminiscent of indie rock veteran Bob Mould, this first release by Yorkshire based singer songwriter Dan Hayes has given me a welcome lift during a summer of rain.

Across the four tracks Hayes, who here goes by the name Jamiesaysmile, manages to tread on the right side of credibility as a singer songwriter, helped by his honest, enormous rock vocals and a fine set of tunes.

Opener Guilty and Dressed Up and third track Dressed Up In Waves are the two immediate standouts full of nods towards the best of Bob Mould’s solo work, especially the veteran’s debut solo album Workbook. Hayes’ vocals are so similar that its strange not to see Mould mentioned on the accompanying press release, which instead cites Get Cape, Wear Cape, Fly, Bloc Party and Biffy Clyro as influences.

There are the occasional rock ballad clichés on track two, Day Three, and final track, Only Works With You, but not enough to detract from what is a fine and promising debut from one of the UK’s most fertile areas for interesting rock music (see our focus on Wakefield label Philophobia Music).

8/10

Day Three is available from Geek Pie Records on a pay what you want basis.

by Joe Lepper

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The Forgotten Stars Of Indie Rock

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The Forgotten Stars Of Indie Rock

Posted on 04 December 2011 by Dorian

A recent concert had a star studded band, including Dave Grohl, backing Bob Mould in a celebration of the music of Hüsker Dü. On Twitter Matt Stevens questioned how Grant Hart might feel about this event, and it got me thinking about how some significant members of bands can get forgotten as we celebrate the legacies of others.

Hüsker Dü

Hüsker Dü (Grant hart pictured centre)

There is no denying that Grant Hart was a big part of the Hüsker Dü sound, with his distinctive drumming as well as writing and singing many of the bands best songs. Mould would probably get more tracks on a best of collection but some of their finest moments, especially on their masterpiece Zen Arcade, come from the pen of the singing drummer. And yet it seems pretty unlikely that a star studded cast is lining up to play a similar concert to celebrate the music of Hüsker Dü with Hart.

Post-Hüsker Dü things have been kinder to Mould and his musical output has been better received, especially his debut album as Sugar, Copper Blue. However, take a listen to Hart’s career retrospective Oeuvrevue and you’ll hear plenty of excellent songs that have been largely overlooked, and this is a compilation that ignores his best singles ‘2541’ and ‘Admiral of the Sea’, one of the standout tracks from Hart’s post-Hüsker Du band Nova Mob. For me a celebration of Hüsker Dü would have Hart involved as well as moustachioed bass player Greg Norton who still plays in bands when he isn’t running restaurants.

The Lemonheads

The Lemonheads (Ben Deily 2nd from right)

Despite not getting the respect I think he deserves Grant Hart is hardly forgotten, something you can’t say about former Lemonhead Ben Deily. When I first heard the Lemonheads they were a band with two front-men, Deilly and Evan Dando. Each contributed songs, guitar, vocals (and often bass and drums) to the band’s first three albums Hate Your Friends, Creator and Lick. I loved Dando’s songs, and he had the sweeter voice, but Deily was an excellent songwriter and the balance between the different song writing styles was what made the albums so enjoyable. After Deilly left the next Lemonheads album, Lovey, sounded a little flat and was a bit of a disappointment.

It is true that It’s A Shame About Ray is a brilliant record, close to faultless from start to finish, but I find it hard to see it as a Lemonheads record with only Dando present from the original line-up. For me the magic of many bands is the collection of component parts as much as it is the skills of individuals.

It is pretty common for the songwriters and singers of bands to forget the importance of their other band members, and the crucial part they have to play in creating a band’s sound and identity. Morrissey and Paul Weller have both been guilty of downplaying the importance of their respective rhythm sections and arrogantly assuming it was their individual genius that lead to their success. They must both know that if they reformed The Smiths and The Jam they would sell more tickets and sell more records than they ever will as solo artists.

Their is something about the magical make-up of a great band that fans understand in a way that band members often forget. Blur were lost when Graham Coxon left, REM never really recovered from the loss of Bill Berry and I can never warm to The Undertones or the Stranglers with their substitute singers.

The tension, personality and style that a band produces is a magic that can’t be replicated with musical talent alone. Take the career of Stephen Malkmus for example. His latest band the Jicks are clearly a better band technically than Pavement,and Malknus is still writing great songs, but I’ll never be as excited about seeing him play live with the Jicks as I was when I saw the reformed Pavement. I have mixed feelings about bands reforming, it can often destroy the old magic, but when it does happen it is often a success just because people want to see something back that they had lost.

The Clash were a great band, and had a gang identity like no other, but the writing was on the wall when they released Combat Rock. Look at the video for ‘Rock The Casbah’, Topper Headon replaced on drums by Terry Chimes despite having written some of the music for the song (and playing bass, drums and piano on the record). His drug problems had forced the band to replace him, but seeing the gang broken up in this way was disappointing. Although not as disappointing as the risible Clash mark 2 featured on Cut The Crap, a sad way for a once great band to bow out.

Some of music’s most changeable acts seem to survive despite rotating line-ups. Guided By Voices and The Fall had such unstable line-ups from day one that it didn’t seem so important when band members changed. Even so it is notable how much attention has been devoted to the GBV “classic line-up” in a year when Bob Pollard’s ‘Boston Spaceships’ knocked out one of the albums ofn his career to little fanfare. And you can only imagine the rise in ticket sales if  The Fall announced a tour with the same line-up that recorded Hex Education Hour.

Nostalgia is a dangerous thing in music, and can get in the way of new acts breaking through, something so important to keeping the music industry alive. But the singers and song writers from those new acts want to remember that the magic of the band is an important thing before they decide to sack their band members or go solo.

By Dorian Rogers

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Grant Hart – Hot Wax

Posted on 20 September 2010 by Joe

What a band Husker Du was to be blessed with two fantastic songwriters and performers in Bob Mould and Grant Hart. While Mould often got the plaudits Hart undoubtedly churned out some of  Husker Du’s finest tracks, in particular ‘Don’t Want To Know If You Are Lonely’ on Candy Apple Grey.

Since the band split in the 1980s Mould and Hart followed similar paths for a while with new bands. Mould forming power pop outfit Sugar and Hart starting Nova Mob.

However, over the last decade their careers have taken different turns. Both are now solo artists, but while Mould has been pretty prolific, releasing five solo albums since 2002 (including this year’s excellent Life and Times, Hart has been less busy, taking ten years to follow up his 1999 solo release Good News For Modern Man with Hot Wax.

Hot Wax has been in the pipeline for a while and features input from among others Godspeed You Black Emperor and Silver Mt. Zion. The press blurb on his website says that, “Grant Hart’s first solo album of the 21st century is one of the best things he has ever done,” as it creates a modern take on classic rock and roll.

That is not strictly true. Hot Wax is not a bad album but nowhere near even matching his best moments with either Husker Du or Nova Mob. The album certainly has its high points, a couple of great songs and a nice Sixties feel to it, but overall it sounds too pedestrian in places and ironically rushed, given it has been years in the making. There are simply too many fillers, even for an album of nine songs.

Among the best tracks are the jingly-jangly ‘California Zephyr’, the David Bowie-esque ‘Schoolbuses are for Children’ and the organ drenched ‘Sailor Jack’. But too many of the rest are like opener ‘You Are the Reflection of the Moon on the Water’, just ok, without much melody as they plod along.

If Hot Wax was released by an unknown, new artist we wouldn’t be so harsh. But this is Grant Hart we are talking about here – a punk legend. And what’s more a punk legend who has taken ten years to get this album out. While comparisons with Mould must be annoying for Hart the inescapable fact is that Mould’s Life and Times is far better, has catchier hooks, better production and somehow feels more genuine.

6/10

by Joe Lepper, Oct 2009

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Bob Mould – Life and Times

Posted on 17 September 2010 by Joe

From his roots with hardcore outfit Husker Du, through to the power pop of his early 1990s band Sugar and now nine solo albums Bob Mould’s influence is spread far and wide across music. On Life and Times, his latest solo album, the full breadth of what Mould is about is laid out.

Opening track ‘Life and Times’ offers a masterclass in his trademark fast, slow power-pop and ‘Argos’ looks back at the more raw, hardcore sound of Husker Du. Meanwhile ‘Bad Better Blood’, shows the more moody, acoustic side to Mould, a track that would not have been out of place on his first solo album, the stripped back Workbook.

Other stand out tracks include ‘I’m Sorry, But You Can’t Stand In My light Anymore’, a break up track of the uplifting variety with a sound reminiscent of Husker Du’s classic album Candy Apple Grey. There is one duffer, final track ‘Lifetime’, but that’s not bad out of ten.

Overall Life and Times offers a good a introduction to those uninitiated in the music of Bob Mould, hopefully opening the door to his extensive body of work spanning three decades of indie/alternative music. For fans of Mould, Life and Times is another solid collection of tracks that won’t disappoint.

7.5/10

by Joe Lepper, Apr 2009

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