Album Review: Bob Mould - Beauty & Ruin

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Alternative rock forefather Bob Mould has lived the equivalent of nine lives in the music business.

Part of 80s punk pioneers Husker Du, Bob (with Grant Hart and Greg Norton) brought a sense of melodic classicism to their fiery power trio grind, as well as a cinematic scope to concept albums like 1984's Zen Arcade.

Like a ton of their contemporaries, the major labels caught wind of the revolution, bought the revolution and became the revolution's undo-ing. Short after signing to Warner Brothers, in-fighting and stress caused the Huskers to go their separate ways.

Their timing couldn't be worse, the grunge/alt-rock explosion of the early 90's was a scant three years away.

Instead, Bob looked inward, turned down the guitars and released his folky, sparse solo debut Workbook in 1989.

The album certainly is a forbearer of moody 90's classics like R.E.M.'s Automatic For The People and Nirvana's MTV Unplugged In New York.

Twenty five years later, Bob has been through a lot (check out Bob's 2012 autobiography See A Little Light: The Trail Of Rage And Melody for the whole story). The sugary pop-punk of his band Sugar, the flirting with dance music, writing wrestling story lines, coming out as a gay man, struggling with body image issues, have kept people from begging for a Husker Du reunion.

Now in 2014, Bob has a crack trio again (Jon Wurster on Drums and Jason Narducy on bass) and the pop punk has returned with a vengeance.

Beauty & Ruin (out now on Merge Records) finds Bob and crew in a muscular punk mood. In 36 minutes, the 12 songs blow by with only the opener "Low Season" giving you a chance to catch your breath. After that opener, its a wam-bam-thank you mam, power pop record complete with ear worm melodies and crunchy distortion (don't forget that Mould was actually a contender to produce Nirvana's Nevermind album).

First single "I Don't Know You Anymore" is Bob doing what Bob does best: Sour lyrics set to sugary chords and a galloping backbeat.

"Hey Mr. Grey" is Bob as elder statesman, even having Bob yell at the "kids" to "get off my yard."

All in all, Beauty & Ruin succeeds in painting Bob as both a godfather of a scene and a youthful rocker full of vim and vigor. The album cover itself reflects this dichotomy with two images of Bob stacked on top of each other.

One is an early Husker Du era picture of Bob pulling on a cigarette and the other is a current, grey-goateed Bob.

You can feel the presence of both Bob's all the way through Beauty & Ruin. I give it 4 Empty Lighthouses out of 5.

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