A lot has changed for Bob Mould since he led the great Minneapolis punk band Hüsker Dü to underground legend during the Reagan administration. After the trio’s demise in the late ’80s, he launched and later disbanded the almost-as-good Sugar, came out of the closet, toyed with electronic music, and settled in Washington, D.C., five years ago.
But subtract a few keyboards and strings, boost the tempo, and District Line is essentially the same furiously melodic pop Mould played way back when. He mastered the contents-under-pressure aesthetic long before Kurt Cobain (or Dave Grohl) and remains a master of controlled tension, delivering deceptively pretty tunes in an edgy voice that suggests he’s headed for a meltdown. The feeling of desperation is entirely fitting, given his candid stories of depression and awful relationships. “So begins my ugly fall from grace, again,” Mould mutters in “Again and Again,” a diatribe against a treacherous lover; “Who Needs to Dream” finds him growling, “I am determined not to fall into that trap again,” sounding like he probably will.
He might gag at the thought, but Mould’s heart-on-sleeve style was surely a starting point for many of today’s emo bands — though they’ll never match his self-lacerating, unsentimental honesty. Don’t believe him when he says, “Growing old, it’s hard to be the angry young man,” because he’s rarely been more compelling.
Now Hear This: Bob Mould, “The Silence Between Us” DOWNLOAD MP3