Bob Mould has, on some level, been offering variations of the same deceptively simple song throughout much of his 30 year solo career. And I mean that in the best possible way. And if the hardcore want to point to some of the stylistic variations then certainly, across the last decade, he’s settled into a great groove – growing older with perfectly palpable and justified anger, aimed mostly in the direction of social justice. Never more so than on Blue Hearts, his latest and one of his absolute greatest.
I’m a huge fan of 2012’s Silver Age, which is the area he has remained in – Sugar-esque power-pop and punk-adjacent rockers that are tightly coiled but so well written as to seem instantly familiar.
The glue here, as on those last albums, now a magnificent handful, such consistency, is the power-trio rocking out across them: Mould’s guitar and voice, backed by the brilliant Jon Wurster (drums) and Jason Narducy (bass). That format just works for Mould and this version of it is such a super road-tight and tested unit. Just superb.
Now is very much the time for an American songwriter to pen an angry song or two. And Blue Hearts is tinged with the sadness that the title hints at, and the left-wing colours that are pinned to the album’s masthead too. Mould rages out about climate change (Heart On My Sleeve) and urges people to hit the streets in protest (Next Generation) and in and around the great punchy, crunchy riffs (Baby Needs A Cockie) there’s some fast and furious shred action (Racing To The End). It’s just a masterclass, precision power-pop and punk writing. And brilliantly delivered.
On first listen I was sold. On subsequent listens I’m hearing hints of Sugar’s finest moments and a reminder of his Husker magic too – of course. Mould, now a couple of weeks of turning 60, continues to gracefully, thoughtfully charge on ahead, whilst never denying that wonderful legacy, merely refining his sound in gradual, granular steps.
My god he is angry here at times. And rightfully so. And it’s glorious. It’s also all over in 35 minutes. As it should be.
And though he might have given the world the Foo Fighters, and though we cannot blame him entirely, you hear something like American Crisis and you hope Grohl is (still) listening. And you know that it more than justifies any of the bluster we’ve had to endure. Mould never seemed to ever go off his game. And if he did – and that would be nit picking – his last decade has just been so fucking solid.
Blue Hearts just pops. Big time.