Monday, June 16, 2014

Beauty & Ruin

Reinvention has it's place. Where many critics will chastise an act for not growing, I am not fond of change for change's sake (nor am I critic, but that is a different matter). I wrote just yesterday that if you find your groove and the songs continue to be high caliber, you should stick to it.

Take Bob Mould. His last record, Silver Age, was one of my favorites from 2012. It was a straight-forward noisy power pop record. It wouldn't be surprising if he changed things up again, exploring the darker side of things Black Sheets of Rain style or even going more electronic. But Bob Mould has other things on his mind. Namely, it's the death of his father and of his own mortality. His new record Beauty & Ruin deals with that life change.

Musicially, "Low Season" starts off as a slow burn, it's deliberate pacing giving way to the punk kick of "Little Glass Pill," which segues into the Sugar-infused "I Don't Know You Anymore." His band of Jason Narducy and Jon Wurster is top shelf.

But the lyrics bite. Take the last of those three tracks: A thousand pieces of my heart/Swept across a weathered floor/And no idea how to start/Solving puzzles from before. Side 1 of the record is labeled "beauty" but beauty is hard to find here. Take side closer "The War:" And all these songs I write for you/They tear me up, it's not hard to do/Listen to my voice/It's the only weapon I kept from the war."

The second side, titled "ruin," is where the light begins to shine. Surrounding the Replacements-esque "Hey Mr. Grey" (complete with a kids don't follow reference), it flickers through songs like "Forgiveness" (and it's Brick-In-The-Wall guitar intro), "Tomorrow Morning" and "Let The Beauty Be" before coming to a close with "Fix It" where Bob sings it's time to fill your heart with love/Fix it, fix it, full enough/Time to fix who you are."

Bob Mould's homosexuality undoubtedly caused whatever friction, whatever distance he and his father had in their relationship. This album sounds like catharsis. It sounds like closure after the fact. I don't know the back story, I don't know anything about what Bob's mindset is here, but the music shows a broken relationship's turmoil. It shows an artist dealing with heavy shit. And for a master songwriter like Bob Mould it's a powerful listening experience.

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