Silver Age is that rarest of Bob Mould records: An unadorned, primal rocker, all bloody-knuckled riffs and flinty attitude with little or no introspection, much less sentiment. That makes sense, in many ways.
After all, this forthcoming project (due September 4, 2012, via Merge) arrives not long after Mould oversaw the reissue of his former band Sugar’s 1992 debut Copper Blue, after playing that similarly straight-forward album in its entirety on stage this summer, after contributing to the Foo Fighters most recent album, and opening for that similarly straight-forward act on tour. Oh, and after pouring his heart out, and really his guts too, in last year’s devastatingly honest memoir See a Little Light: A Trail of Rage and Melody.
It seems all of those things helped nudge Mould, working now alongside only Superchunk drummer Jon Wurster and Verbow bassist Jason Narducy, to this new/old place: A place where he simply wants to play again, not confess; to kick ass — there are none of the modern-day experiments in electronics found on his more recent projects here — rather than take names.
The guitar work on Silver Age becomes a torrential force on tracks like “Steam of Hercules,” arriving in layer upon layer, yet (as with his greatest successes both in Sugar and, previous to that, as part of Husker Du) Mould imbues these furious riffs with an innate sense of melodicism — something that set him apart before more considered efforts like 2009′s Life and Times, and still does today.
Buried, and often literally, within all of this are a series of biting commentaries — though, the topics throughout are less personal, more universal: Mould berates a greedy egotist in “Star Machine,” for instance, then shows how these kind of morality plays ultimately unfold inside “The Descent.”
As always, you’ll have to listen closely, since Mould’s penchant continues for setting his vocals well within the mix of hooky guitar outbursts: He positively barks with an adolescent recklessness on “Fugue State”; he very nearly croons at times on “Keep Believing.” Those revelations only come later, however, after your ears have stopped ringing.
In that way, Silver Age works like a belated follow up to Copper Blue, so unadorned is its sense of old-school propulsion, so straight forward is its will to rock, so universal are its themes. There’s even a weird symmetry to the titles: Copper Blue, with time, with experience, becomes Silver Age.
When, on the title track here, Mould reminds us that he’s “never too old to contain my rage,” we can all be assured that he means it. But, perhaps more importantly, Mould has recaptured his similarly once-uncontainable sense of serrated punk-pop aggression, too.
Turns out, and what a gift this is, Mould is never too old for that, either.
Here’s a look at Bob Mould’s upcoming 2012 tour dates:
09/07 – New York, NY @ Webster Hall
09/08 – Washington DC @ 9:30 Club
09/10 – Boston, MA @ Paradise
09/11 – Philadelphia, PA @ Union Transfer
09/13 – Chicago, IL @ Metro
09/15 – Minneapolis, MN – First Avenue
09/18 – Seattle, WA – Showbox
09/19 – Portland, OR – Wonder Ballroom
09/21 – San Francisco, CA – Fillmore
09/21-23, 2012, Pensacola Beach, FL @ DeLuna Fest