'Silver Age' finds Bob Mould defying self-imposed ageism
By NICK TAVARES
STATIC and FEEDBACK Editor
Years ago, Bob Mould made a declaration that he was too old for rock and roll, certainly too old for hardcore. He traded in big amps and a band for 12-string guitars and intimate settings, and began spinning his songs with a solo thread.
It was, in a vaccuum, understandable. Mould is a singular voices to come out of the 1980s and one of the great songwriters of his or any generation, and it was no surprise to see him thrive in these comfortable settings. But the idea that he was “too old” never sat well, a premature judgement on a man who was just then entering middle age. Truly, age is a product of the mind, and “too old” is no longer a stigma that should effect musicians, whether or not they work in the rock medium.
Eventually, his shows expanded, switching from acoustic to electric guitars midway through. Then the band came back, allowing Mould to cut loose as he once did, only now with renewed energy. And, finally, this album, Silver Age, which harkens back to his days in Sugar in the sense that it’s raw, it’s relentless and it contains some incredible bits of lyrical mastery.
It’s not as if Mould has been on vacation this entire time. Indeed, he’s been cranking out records consistently for the past decade. But here, on his Merge debut, there seems to be an added sense of urgency in the music. Perhaps it’s just foisted on by the listener, but, perhaps it’s really there.
Like his best work, Silver Age plays like a riptide, running through its 10 songs with fury and righteousness. When the tempo changes, it doesn’t drop so much as it ebbs and flows, giving texture to the overall work while doing right by the song. The one-two punch of “Star Machine” and “Silver Age” shove that message home with authority, jump-starting the record with a retro tone that feels more than appropriate in 2012. If the righteous, screaming sound of Sugar always sounded ahead of its time, this fits neatly alongside it so as to feel perfectly relevant and necessary.
A little more than halfway through the album, “Round the City Square” changes the pace from locomotive charging to a mere sprint, but the lyrics and guitars push with the authority of an anthem as Mould pleads his case. It’s a cause that seems to carry into “Angels Rearrange,” while the entire record is punctuated by “First Time Joy.”
The feeling after Silver Age reaches completion is the best kind — the compulsive need to play it again. If the songs feel as though they go by in a blur, it’s a completely enjoyable blur, and the songs themselves reveal much more each time through. It does it’s job on myriad levels, and it’s a solid record for sure.
The idea of a Mould album being solid wouldn’t necessarily be news; he’s been too good for too long. But this record, more than the recent batch, screams for attention. It’s raw, it’s hungry and, more often than not, it’s wild. It sounds as though it were recorded by a man half his age, which is just another way to say that, with rock music, there’s no such thing as old age.
E-mail Nick Tavares at firstname.lastname@example.org