Beauty & Ruin
It would be churlish to call this the best thing Bob Mould has done – there’s all that great Husker stuff and the Sugar albums proved themselves second time around with the reissues – and were great the first time too. This is solo album number 11 and there have been highlights across the solo career – as well as a few mistakes. Arriving just 18 months after Silver Age (also a very good record) it seems that, with Beauty & Ruin, Mould is re-energised, he’s hurtling again, not just saying he’s hurting…
Beauty & Ruin has the bonus of arriving after Silver Age – that was the first new material amid a glut of reissues, reappraisals and even his own memoir. So, good though it was, it didn’t quite feel like any fresh start. Whereas Beauty might ape the Sugar sound (closer, Fix It, wow! The perfect Sugar song that never happened) and might even rub itself up against Husker now and then – Tomorrow Morning feels like something off Candy Apple Grey (even some of the Hart songs actually) and though the pace is brutal and blistering and we rip through 12 songs in under 40 minutes there are a couple of left turn-type stops. The very cool and charming pop of Forgiveness, the borrowing-back-from-the-Foo-Fighters Let The Beauty Be provide punctuation amid a flurry and fury of great guitar fuelled pop-rockers like I Don’t Know You Anymore. It all sounds so 1990s – and yet doesn’t feel dated.
Nemeses Are Laughing has a Beach Boys-like intro before ploughing on in through that big open-chord-ringing guitar sound, The War and Hey Mr. Grey sound punk/ish and urgent.
The complete trimming of fat, of anything resembling a wrong-footed stroll down the wrong alley is what aligns this with Mould’s very best work. The fact that it’s all his own this time – a full album full of magic – is what elevates it, has it close to his very best.