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Bob Mould – Patch The Sky

April 5, 2016

Although I listened to Hüsker Dü, it never really resonated with me. However Mould’s first post Hüsker Dü album Workbook completely blew my mind. Sugar’s File Under Easy Listening was in constant rotation for about year when it first came out. Mould’s autobiography See a Little Light revealed a fascinating man and made his music even more intriguing (and it was in that book that I first discovered the term catch groove).

I greatly enjoyed his last album Beauty & Rain, but Patch The Sky is in the Workbook/File Under Easy Listening stratosphere. This is one great album. Mould is a punk elder at the height of his powers. The guitar playing on this album is amazing: classic Mould buzz saw droning chords accented with classic rock leads. The sonics of this recording are gorgeous. The beauty of Mould’s “punk rock” is that it always had a tasty bubble gum soul – at his core Mould is a pop musician – which is not an insult in my book, but a badge of honor. Anyone can make harsh noise, but only a great artist can make beautiful noise – Patch The Sky is beautiful noise.

The album opens with “Voices in My Head.” The song intro is a cool chiming backward sounding effect that is interrupted by classic Bob Mould rock: his combo of pop hooks and punk heat. There is a very nice solo guitar break which is reprised at the end of the song. Lyrically this is a song I can really relate to: “voices in my head they multiply and amplify the fear.” Mould concludes it is time to stop listening to them – pretty good and simple advice.

“The End of Thing” leaps out of the speakers like Neil Young & Crazy Horse on amphetamines. Beyond the obvious big guitar on this song,  I love the drum foundation.

“Hold On” starts out relatively quiet and then kicks in. The song has an elevating quality – with every chorus you feel higher than the last one.

“You Say You” is a great example of the influence Mould has had on his disciples – this song would not sound out-of-place on a Foo Fighter’s album. I love how Mould juxtapositions angry lyrics with upbeat music.

Mould takes a turn with a whole different sound on”Losing Sleep.” On this song Mould connects with his inner XTC. A nice little distraction in the middle of the album. Mould has always had a great voice to cut through the noise of his guitar, but on a less guitar centric song you get a chance to hear how beautiful his voice truly is.

With “Pray for Rain” the buzz saw drone returns coupled with percolating crashing drums. The noise just pours over you.  The side ends with a short unnamed hidden instrumental.

“Lucifer and God” opens side two in epic fashion. This is a big arena style anthem both musically and lyrically.

“Daddy’s Favorite” has some great rock and roll licks.  It is a an honest reflection of the loss of one’s parents.

“Hands Are Tied” is a fast-moving punk rush.

“Black Confetti” brings all Mould’s musical strengths together: big hooks, a huge wash of guitar, giant riffs, piercing vocals, cool sound effects – the music rolls over you.

“Losing Time” is more power punk. I can’t say enough about how fun it is to really immerse your ears in Mould’s noise. At first blush it is just buzz – but there is so much more if you really dig in.

“Monument” ends the album on a contemplative note. Mould slows it down – not a ballad per se, but slow burning rock. It is a bit quieter than the rest of the album and that lets you really sink your teeth into the beauty of Mould and the band’s playing.

Mould has always been a brainy punk and there has always been a depth and complexity to his noise. Mould is not introducing anything new here – just a perfect manifestation of his craft. There is not a clunker on the album. Often when I fall in love with an album at first sight, on further inspection it does not hold up. But Patch The Sky is a so richly layered that it just keeps getting better with each listen.

Addendum: This review as been sitting in draft status a few weeks.  When I was finishing it up I remembered that I had not ever bothered to get tickets to Bob Mould’s two night stand at First Avenue (Minneapolis).  It was now too late as I had other plans. Googling about Mould I learned there was a free invitation only afternoon mini-concert at the Turf Club. I signed up to be considered on The Current website and forgot about it. The day before the show I got an email mail that I was invited.

April 21, 2016 was the day of the show – it was also the day that Prince died.  A pretty big deal for pop music fans world-wide – and a bigger deal here in Minneapolis Minnesota.  I am not sure if there is another rock star that is so affiliated with “a place” as Prince is with Minneapolis.  And of course Bob Mould is a pretty big deal in Minneapolis too – in fact his First Avenue star is right below Prince’s star on the First Avenue wall of fame.  So a pretty weird vibe for a show.

Bob Mould bounded on stage, subtly acknowledged the sadness of the day and then unleashed a solo maelstrom.  I was only about 10 feet away from Mould and I focused on his hands the whole time trying to understand how he makes his music.  His right hand wildly flails – yet a coherent voice comes out of that chaos.  Mould is working so hard that he glasses fog up.  It was fascinating to watch.  In what seemed liked seconds it was over (actually it was 45 minutes).  I felt honored to see one of my rock heroes so up close and personal.  Set list here.

Check out this Ryan Adams interview of Bob Mould (really a conversation).



From → Music Reviews

  1. Now that I’m officially “Spotified” I’m going through all the music that I’ve noted off catchgroove. First 2 listens are going to be ‘Wild Stab’ and this one. How about a third one off the top of your pile.

    • I am swooning like a teenager over Harry Styles. Try his debut called Harry Styles. It was love at first sight but I was actually second guessing my taste given his pedigree. But over the last few weeks I have heard a few hipsters validate my opinion.

      • Sight unseen (and unheard) it will be in the loop with the other 2 for the week or more. Only problem, the whole Spot thing is like a smorg and CB’s a pig. catchgroove doesn’t need “hipster validation”.

    • PS – I will be interested in your take on Spotify.

      • Like I said a little overwhelming so I’m going to keep it at a focused input so i give each spin some time and not be getting ahead of myself. Thanks again for the nudge. Kind of exciting.

  2. Man is this ever good. Lived up to expectations. Like you say, it gets better with each listen. Sign of a great album. ‘Daddy’s Favorite’ is a killer. My first two choices off your takes couldn’t have been better. Thanks! Onto Harry Styles. Spotify is easy and no fuss. I’ll find a groove with it.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Bob Mould – Live at Turf Club (St. Paul Mn 4/18/17) & Catchgroove’s Hall of Fame: Sugar – File Under Easy Listening  | Axl's Catch Groove

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