Twenty years after Sugar's Copper Blue, Bob Mould has decided to pick up where that record left off with his new solo album Silver Age. Mould succinctly summed up the album telling Rolling Stone "Silver Age is exactly what it appears to be: It's 38 minutes of rock." Well, isn't that special (unintentionally quoting "the Church Lady" there). Mould seems to be on a mission to unleash a gloriously loud BOB MOULD record. Mission Accomplished! He also told RS, "I wanted to put together a companion piece, something that would complement the sentiment of that album [Copper Blue], the aesthetic of that album."
Silver Age finds Mould, along with drummer Jon Wurster and bassist Jason Narducy, in amazing form, comfortable with himself, yet still angry enough to critique the world around him. Singing and playing at a high level, the trio recall both Sugar and Husker Du in their attack and blazingly vibrant pop sound, but they have the knowledge of years of rocking behind them to know when to lay back and when to lean in. This is a muscular set of songs where the electric guitar is king. Mould's always been a distinctive stylist on the instrument and Silver Age is an example of a musician who tried to turn his back on amplified guitar pop/rock, but got pulled back in by the siren's call of amp searing feedback & distortion. The recent experience of playing shows celebrating Sugar's classic album and his personal journey writing an autobiography have put Mould in a place of having nothing to prove, which might be the best kind of freedom.
To state the obvious and say that every song SOUNDS like a "Bob Mould song" would be too simple, but accurate. He's left the electronica and the acoustic guitars at home (or the dance floor) and is roaring from the word go. "Star Machine" starts the album off with a bang and it never lets up. These songs are richly melodic vocally and wall of sound loud with Fender's burning. Mould hasn't sung this strong in years in my opinion. "The Descent," the album's first single, is the most "catchy" tune here - which makes it the logical choice for single/first video (by the way, the vid is darkly comic in the way Mould escapes the 9-5 world of the suits and goes off to live in nature - a punk Thoreau?). As usual with Mould, the lyrics are the last piece of the musical whole to come into focus. His bellow to croon vocals (dig the pipes on "Keep Believing") are buried in the firestorm of riffage and it takes several listens to parse out lyric meanings (I'm still working on it actually, but who cares 'cause the power of the tunes is all ya need to get behind on this album.)
Ultimately fans of Sugar, Husker Du, and loud power-pop/punk will feel the joy of "rock" in what turns out to be a wonderful, complimentary album to the body of work already produced by Bob Mould. This album is about playing heavy guitar in a room with a band. Let's hope Mould never stops plugging in.