BOB MOULD: Beauty and Ruin: CD/LP

Bob Mould’s last album, Silver Age, was a surprising success. It showed a return to some great rock and roll, reminiscent of the high points from his days in Sugar. His latest, Beauty and Ruin, features two pictures of him on the cover; one from his Hüsker Dü days and one from the present day. While I’m not sure if it was intentional, it’s an interesting contrast because it seems as if Mould is still drawing from his days with Hüsker Dü and Sugar, bands that he played in back in the 1980s and ‘90s. The sound can be fast and aggressive (“Kid with Crooked Face”) or more introspective and somber (“Let the Beauty Be”), but it all works well. Mould has stated that the twelve songs are broken down into four sections of three songs each: loss, reflection, acceptance, and future. Each of these sections deals with the aftermath of losing his father in 2012. Once you know that was what Mould was attempting, it opens up the album to a different interpretation. There start to be themes between the songs and the lyrics speak to the listener in an additional manner. It’s not a concept album per se, but it is a look at the aftermath of loss. Mould still knows how to play fast, the backing band of Jon Wurster and Jason Narducy is tight as ever, and the songs have great pop hooks. I have a soft spot for Sugar’s File Under Easy Listening (I know—I’m the only one) and the Hüsker Dü material is legendary, but Bob Mould’s solo material is still much better than the vast majority of music I hear on a regular basis. Anyone who has ever liked a Bob Mould project should pick this up. 

 –kurt (Merge)