Bob Mould – Body of Song

Bob Mould
Body of Song

When Bob Mould proclaimed that he was giving up the electric guitar and live shows after his solo album The Last Dog and Pony Show, it was hard to believe him. A man as prolific as Mould – whether solo, with the legendary Husker Du, with the power-pop trio Sugar, or solo again – surely wouldn’t be content to dabble with the electronic synths and drum machines that were featured on his release under the moniker LoudBomb. Surely the man some dubbed the godfather of jangly power-pop wasn’t content without going back to what brought him.

With Body of Song, his first new release since 2002, Mould shows that he can’t totally give up that guitar-driven power-pop sound. There are some of his new style of electro-rock hybrid songs, as he featured on Modulate, but also some of the purely driving rock that will be a part of his new world tour with a full band. It’s those songs that the old fans will surely long for. Guests Brendan Canty (Fugazi) and David Barbe (Sugar) help with that full-band sound, and I’m instantly sold on Mould all over again.

The album-opener “Circles” is classic Mould. The guitars are thick and crunchy, the vocals rich and sprinkled with reverb, the beats powerful. And “Paralyzed” is just classic: it’s catchy and jangly at all the right moments, and it’s no doubt rocking, even with the heavy synth lines during the instrumental parts. There are other rockers here that are strong deep-album tracks, such as “Underneath Days” and “Best Thing.” There’s even some mellower, more dramatic moments, like “High Fidelity,” which features bells and organ, of all things, and the acoustic-led “Gauze of Friendship” that harks back to Mould’s classic days.

Mould’s electronic-influenced approach these days can be heard on many of the other tracks, but most still show off the hybrid blending of styles that are equal parts synths and beats and electric guitar. The beats are catchy on “(Shine Your) Light Love Hope,” a fast-paced song that puts Mould’s voice under some warbly electronic effects, and “I Am Vision, I Am Sound” is a serious rocker despite dabbles of effects (mostly on the vocals, and it’s such a shame to cover Mould’s amazing voice). The closing “Beating Heart the Prize” shows off perhaps the best blending of Mould’s old and new styles.

As a longtime fan of Mould, I can’t find much to fault with Body of Song. Those who enjoy his new approach will like the album, and those who long for his old days of guitar-driven power-pop will find some highlights that prove no matter how old Mould gets, he still is one of the most brilliant musicians and lyricists ever. I find myself more in the latter camp, wishing for a full album of songs like “Circles” and “Paralyzed,” and I can’t help but feel that on some tracks on Body of Song, the bitter angst that often is showcased in Mould’s lyrics feels forced (“Best Thing”). These things will be evident to most fans, and they mar an otherwise remarkable return to form.

And yet Body of Song is a good album, one I’d definitely put ahead of Modulate. Mould is touring with a full band, playing songs from every stage of his career, and I can vouch that this will not be a tour to miss. Mould himself may fear being an aging rocker on stage, becoming a parody of himself, but his fans will tell you this man can sling the guitar with the best of him today and still prove himself one of the best alive.