He may be 53, but Bob Mould isn’t about to stop rocking.
Two years after his last album release, Mould put out Beauty & Ruin on June 3. Yet again, Mould provides music that is, simply, loud.
Mould first burst onto the music scene as the front man of the ‘80s punk band Hüsker Dü, which proved to be an influential band within the alternative rock genre for artists like The Pixies and Nirvana. After releasing six albums with Hüsker Dü, the band broke up and Mould began his first phase of solo music. During the ‘90s, Mould joined the short-lived alternative rock band Sugar, which only released two studio albums. Since then, Mould has provided the theme song for The Daily Show, written an autobiography and continued his solo career, even dipping his toes into electronic music.
However, Beauty & Ruin returns to Mould’s hardcore punk roots with fast-tempo songs like the vocal-shredding “Little Glass Pill,” “Kid With Crooked Face” and “Tomorrow Morning.” These songs would be perfectly suited for a gig at New York’s CBGB, if the club was still in existence.
The album opens with “Low Season,” which features a cacophonous sound, like the punk equivalent to an orchestra tuning up. Unlike the other songs on the album, “Low Season” features a slow tempo and an opening melody evocative of a hard rock cover of Elton John’s “Rocket Man.”
A standout on the album is the catchy track “I Don’t Know You Anymore,” which was used in television promotions for the album’s release. The music video, released on the Funny Or Die website, is the epitome of hipster, with references to mustache wax, bomb logos on Mould’s albums that share a resemblance with the Apple logo and wine tastings with Carrie Brownstein (of the band Sleater-Kinney and the television show Portlandia) and James Mercer (of The Shins and Broken Bells).
The video opens with Colin Meloy, front man of The Decemberists, offering Mould condescending advice on how to be a successful musician by abandoning the old-school marketing technique of album tours and instead embracing social media
“If you want to sell something, you have to make people believe it’s going to make their lives better, that they can’t live without it,” Meloy says.
Mould is then inspired to take to the streets to promote his album and revive the record industry. The song itself, like nearly every Mould song, is filled with angsty lyrics. Undoubtedly, “I Don’t Know You Anymore” will make its way onto breakup mixes of indie listeners.
Mould also uses this album to experiment with new sounds. The beginning of “Nemeses Are Laughing” features a brief a cappella intro, while the guitar in “Forgiveness” is reminiscent of Peter Buck’s jangle pop instrumentation signature to R.E.M.
The one fault of Beauty & Ruin, though, is the mixing. Emphasis is placed in the raging guitar and cymbal-heavy percussion, which drowns out Mould’s lyrics. However, this was likely intentional. The mixing is signature to the punk do-it-yourself aesthetic of imperfection, and this deviates from the glossy mixing that dominates today’s popular songs. Nevertheless, it seems odd that the lyrics aren’t given a higher priority, considering that Mould is a lyricist who has crafted heartbroken songs such as “The Silence Between Us,” which would give the melancholy Morrissey a run for his money.
Overall, Mould presents a solid hardcore album with a consistent sound, a notable characteristic in an age when music industries place value in singles, rather than in the album as a whole. Beauty & Ruin is an album perfect for returning fans of Mould, as well as someone looking for a grungier soundtrack to a summer road trip.
Collegian Staff Reporter Katie Schmidt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.