Monday, February 04, 2008

New Day Rising

I have been waiting for an appropriate time to mention the music of Bob Mould, and seeing as how he has an excellent new record coming out on tomorrow, this seems as good a time as any. Bob Mould started his career as the guitarist for the seminal 80's punk band Husker Du, one of many bands chronicled in Michael Azerrad's excellent book Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes from the American Indie Underground, 1981-1991. After the demise of Husker Du, Mould released solo records as well as creating the band Sugar and working in music production. So for those of you unassociated with his work, allow me to shine some light.

Husker Du - Land Speed Record
Recorded live at the 7th Street Entry on August 15th, 1981, Land Speed Record is Husker Du's first release. And trust me, the record lives up to its name. Recorded for a mere $350 on a 2-track soundboard, the record is 17 tracks and 26 and a half minutes of hardcore punk. It has not yet been remastered, which makes the CD a hard listen, even for the most devout of punk fans. A few of the tracks were re-released on their first studio record Everything Falls Apart, but even then it is still a pretty rough listen. If you're not really a fan of punk rock, this record is absolutely skipable, but is a must have for the diehard fans.

Husker Du - Everything Falls Apart
Released in 1983, Everything Falls Apart is Husker Du's first studio record. This record included their second single "In A Free Land" as well as the track "Do You Remember", which is the Danish and Norwegian translation of the bands name. Another highly sought after record from the band due to its small original pressing; it has been re-released onto CD as Everything Falls Apart and More, although this too is a pretty rough listen. The band was known for their distortion and low quality recordings until later on in their career. The record also contains a cover of Donovan's "Sunshine Superman", which always seemed like a weird choice to me, but they manage to make it work.

Husker Du - Metal Circus
This 1983 EP could be considered the starting point of the band's transition into more melodic punk rock, as well as the start of Mould and Grant Hart singing the lead vocals on their own songs. The songs at this point are still pretty short, with 7 tracks clocking in at 19 minutes, but that would soon change.

Husker Du - Zen Arcade
The band's breakout album, the double-LP concept record Zen Arcade is considered a punk rock classic, the record made many top critics and magazine lists. While the record is considered a concept album about a dream or... something, I don't really know, but I don't see it that way. The record does however include many of the band's classics, including "Never Talking to You Again", which was covered recently by David Grohl of the Foo Fighters, which you can download here. This record also includes one of Grant Hart's best songs, "Turn On the News", which the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has placed on their list of "500 songs that shaped rock and roll". If you need a good starting point to get into their music, this is it.

Husker Du - New Day Rising
What could be considered the band's best album, 1985's New Day Rising solidified not only their new direction in sound but also the band's status as one of the decade's best indie band's. Featuring classics such as "I Apologize", "Terms of Psychic Warfare", "Books About UFOs", and the record's 2 singles "New Day Rising" and "Celebrated Summer". New Day Rising has been listed on many "greatest" lists, including being the only Husker Du record on Rolling Stone's "500 Greatest Albums of all Time". By far the band's best record.

Husker Du - Flip Your Wig
Released the same year as New Day Rising, Flip Your Wig is a big departure from the band's earlier hardcore days. This record includes the single "Makes No Sense At All", which is not only the band's first music video but also one of the few Husker Du songs that Mould plays at his solo shows. The record also includes a few of my favorite Husker Du tracks, including "Flip Your Wig", "Hate Paper Doll" and "Keep Hanging On". This record proved a pivotal turning point for the band, as they were not only jumping to a major label but also experiencing a lot of inner strife between the band members, which would not only tear the band apart but also draw out some of the bands best music as a result of Mould and Hart's competitive song writing.

Husker Du - Candy Apple Grey
The first record of theirs to crack the Billboard Top 200, as well as my personal favorite record from them, Candy Apple Grey is their first to be released on a major label. There were 2 singles released for the album, both written and sung by Hart; "Don't Want To Know If you Are Lonely", which was made into a music video, and my favorite Husker Du song "Sorry Somehow", which was released as an EP. Here is a clip of Green Day covering "Don't Want To Know If You Are Lonely", for your viewing pleasure. This record also includes some of their slower songs, including the wonderfully melancholy "Hardly Getting Over It", "Too Far Down", and "No Promise Have I Made". My favorite record of theirs as well as their best in production quality, this record alienated a lot of fans, but has aged very well. If I could only suggest one record, this would be it.

Husker Du - Warehouse: Songs and Stories
The last record from the band, Warehouse: Songs and Stories cracked the Billboard Top 200, even as a double album. There were three singles released from the record; "Could You Be The One", "Ice Cold Ice", and "She's A Woman (And Now He Is A Man)", although only the first one was made into a music video. It's a decent record, but I have to be honest; I don't really care for it. "Could You Be The One" is really the only song I listen to off of this record, but I continually find myself giving it another chance, only to be disappointed. The record clearly shows how tired of itself the band has become, and the group disbanded after the tour for this record. This record is probably the easiest on the ears, and it's definitely their most catchy record, so it would be a good listen for those who don't care for the heavier stuff, but honestly I am the only Husker Du fan I know of that even owns this record. A sad ending for a great band.

Bob Mould - Workbook
Mould's first solo record following the demise of Husker Du is a mostly acoustic record that is composed of folky tunes that sound almost nothing like his previous work. While "See A Little Light" is a pretty good tune, I rarely listen to this record. I plan on giving it another spin this week, but it takes a little getting used to due to the drastic change in pace from what I am used to. Still, it's worth checking out.

Bob Mould - Black Sheets of Rain
My favorite so far of Mould's solo releases, Black Sheets of Rain takes late-era Husker Du and gives it a heavy pop coating. This record contained the top 10 hit "It's Too Late", which is among his best solo work. Along with that single, the record also has some pretty good songs that Husker Du fans will probably dig, such as "One Good Reason", "Hanging Tree", "The Last Night", and "Stop Your Crying". This record is definitely one I would suggest you to pick up and give it a spin; really good stuff.

Sugar - Copper Blue
Easily Sugar's best work, Copper Blue is a Sugar album written entirely by Mould. I would list the key tracks, but I would have to list pretty much every damn one. So, to make it easy I will point out my favorites; "Changes", "Helpless", and "If I Can't Change Your Mind", a great song which was butchered by the band Train. A pivotal record of the 90's, this record easily stands up with the best of Husker Du and Mould's solo records.

Sugar - Beaster
Beaster is an EP consisting of songs written at the same time as Copper Blue, but the material was a bit darker than the record, so Mould wisely decided to release it as a 6 song EP. The EP includes the track "Tilted", which is another great Sugar track that had a video made for it. If you can find this EP pick it up, it easily holds up to Copper Blue.

Sugar - File Under: Easy Listening
The last record released by Sugar, F.U.E.L. is a great follow up to Copper Blue. Although I prefer the first record, there were some pretty good tracks released off this record, such as "Gee Angel", "Your Favorite Thing", which is one of my favorite Sugar tracks and got some radio play when it was released, and "Believe What You're Saying". While I do prefer the first record, this one is just as good but with a little lighter, more pop sound.

Sugar - Besides
The final release from the band, Besides is a collection of B-sides from their other records. It's not a bad disc if you are a fan of B-sides and unreleased music, but like most B-sides and rarities discs it does not have a consistent feel to it. The songs seem to jump around in tempo and quality, but if you have gotten this far into Bob Mould's catalog, then I am obligated to inform you to pick this one up as well. The CD also contains the video for the song "Gee Angel", even though the song is from the F.U.E.L. record and is not included in any form on this disc. The first initial pressings of this record included the bonus live disc The Joke Is Always On Us, Sometimes, recorded on November 2nd, 1994 at First Avenue club in Minneapolis.

Bob Mould - Bob Mould
After the demise of Sugar, Mould went back to solo work with the 1996 release of his self-titled album. Having performed all of the instrumentation on this record, it is surprisingly good. It includes the single "egoverride", as well as the note worthy tracks "I Hate Alternative Rock", "Deep Karma Canyon", and "Art Crisis". I still prefer his first solo record, but when this one hits, it's great.

Bob Mould - The Last Dog and Pony Show
This is an interesting record. One minute you're hearing the standard Mould sound ("Moving Trucks" and "Who Was Around"), and then the next minute there is sampling and electronic mechanical sounds ("Reflecting Pool" and "First Drag Of The Day"). This is a prelude to his next record, which was an industrial record. Still, "Moving Trucks" is s great track, along with "Take Everything" and "Who Was Around". Sounds a lot like Sugar, with the obvious exceptions of the sampling tracks I mentioned, but still a great record.

Bob Mould - Modulate
I have to be honest; I rarely listen to this record. Modulate is pretty much what the title insinuates, an electronic record. It's not such a change of pace as Blaqk Audio was to AFI, but its close. Still, there some decent track, such as "Sunset Safety Glass" and "Slay/Sway". The record however is a drastic change of pace and will probably throw off a lot of long time fans. Required listening for die hard fans, but that's about it. I would suggest you stick with his earlier solo work or Sugar.

Bob Mould - Body of Song
A welcome return to form, Body of Song is a mix of Modulate and The Last Dog and Pony Show. The electronic sampling is still there, but the guitars are more concentrated, adding his trademark fuzz to the electronic atmosphere of the record. The record has been reviewed very favorably, and is among his best. I wasn't able to find any videos off of the record, but check out Mould's website for some samples of the record.

Well, that about sums it up. Bob Mould's new record District Line drops tomorrow, and you can listen to the record in it's entirety at his MySpace page. I have given it a couple of listens, and it sounds damn good. Until then, I suggest that you check out his expansive back catalog. Start with Husker Du and work your way forward or vice versa, either way you can't really go wrong. He is also currently on tour so check out his website for dates. I will probably be at the San Francisco show, so if anyone would like to go let me know, I hate going to concerts alone.

You want me to beg forgiveness, tender an apology. It's not my fault and you're not getting one from me.

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