Rock god Bob Mould embraced his elder status on a raucous ‘Silver Age’
When gay men reach a certain age, there are definitely lines drawn. Whether good (daddy) or bad (troll), they are no doubt distinguishable by labels to anyone not their age.
What makes for the best quality about Bob Mould’s newest release Silver Age is that he basically says “fuck all that” … and then rocks the shit out of your ears.
Mould is alt-rock royalty, dating back to his stints in influential groups Husker Du and Sugar. As they dissolved, he opted to forge ahead as a solo artist; Silver Age is his 10th solo disc, and sounds far fresher than his last few. He’s recharged and vibrant and he embraces his 51 years in full glory, while never playing as a grumpy old man.
Opener “Star Machine” immediately causes pause. As Mould vents on fame and celebrity, is he dissing the likes of untested superstars like Bieber and Gomez (You took a number from the star machine) or is he even referring to himself (You tell the world you had to fire the band)? Either way, the guitars drop like bombs into driving rage. But Mould’s melodic work keeps it a legitimate assault; even as a rock manifesto, the album is never tiresome.
The “real” album starts with the title track. Whether he has rediscovered his voice or found a new one, Mould lets the floodgates open with an anthem that dismisses all notions anyone with a touch of grey should slow down. When he belts “This is how I’m never too old to contain my rage over the stacked guitars,” it’s a declaration of glorious depth that is rarely heard. Mould welcomes his 50s with a no-retreat attitude.
On the album’s lead single “The Descent,” Mould trades in one life for a simpler one. As seen in the video, he walks out of his corporate office with his box of belongings. Laid off? Fired? As the song and video play out, Mould’s wisdom fosters a rebounding attitude instead of a victimized one. Under theatrical guitar layers, Mould can even dole out philosophical waxing.
Mould told Rolling Stone he “didn’t really have any agenda” on the album, but his natural poetry is hard to ignore. He can’t help but write lyrics that strike chords, even on simple lines like Don’t be scared of change / it may be time to rearrange from “Angels Rearrange.” But the music jets out of the speakers with beautiful abandon. There is a balance that drives as fast as Green Day, but with the soul of Rent.
Where it falters is in production values. Mould’s voice is mixed at the same levels as the music; not good — much of what he says gets lost. This is even more tragic because Mould’s voice never sounded better. He’s polished off his usual gruff for some sweet vocal chops. He’ll never be Robert Plant or Josh Groban, but his wails haven’t been this impressive in a long time.
Silver Age never lets up. On 10 tracks, the tone sticks with fast drums and an orchestra of guitar action throughout, but paced to provide real texture. By the end, you’ve experienced the magic of Bob Mould.
— Rich Lopez
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 31, 2012.