The stark, implacable guitar figure that opens the latest release from punk-era survivor Bob Mould makes one thing clear immediately: Silver Age is a rock record; period, full stop. That’s no small thing: As a leader of seminal hardcore band Hüsker Dü and as the frontman of crunch-pop trio Sugar, Mould was responsible for some of the most anthemic riff-fests of the ’80s and ’90s. But from 1998 solo LP The Last Dog and Pony Show, at which point Mould declared he was finished with plugged-in touring, the iconic singer-songwriter has pursued disparate paths—stripped-down acoustic balladry; slick Auto-Tuned pop; digital dance music in the still-running duo Blowoff.
Whether Mould purged his demons with last year’s publication of a candid memoir, See a Little Light: The Trail of Rage and Melody, remains debatable: Silver Age includes plenty of subject-to-interpretation barbs. “Silly bird you bought a lousy dream?/?You took a number from the star machine,” Mould sings in “Star Machine.” Words to an ex-comrade? Maybe, but soon you wonder if he’s singing into a mirror: “You told the world you had to fire the band?/?Your little world has gotten out of hand?/?The star machine will hand your ass right back to you.”
Meant as a counterpart to the recently reissued Sugar LP Copper Blue, the new disc echoes its predecessor’s lacerating riffs, soaring melodies and punchy rhythm section (here, bassist Jason Narducy and Superchunk drummer Jon Wurster). Fittingly, you’ll hear those two albums juxtaposed live for Mould’s return to Brooklyn.—Steve Smith
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