Bob is back. Don't be scared -- we're not talking about Bob Bennett, Republican ideologue, or a freshly shellacked Bob Barker, but rather indie rock legend Bob Mould. Front man for seminal outfits Hüsker Dü and Sugar, as well as author of several terrific solo albums, Mould has enjoyed a self-imposed exile since 1998's appropriately titled The Last Dog & Pony Show, which he promised would end his touring, guitar-rock days.
Well, it was partly true. Mould is preparing to release three new albums on his own label, Granary Music, two of which lean heavily on electronic music for their inspiration, and the other acoustic, in the vein of his album Workbook. Mould's explained in interviews that after 20 years of composing on guitar, he'd reached a creative cul-de-sac, and decided to take a break. Mould sought a new way of writing, and along the way he discovered several artists who approximated the textured sound he's heard in his head and long tried to translate into his songs, but did so without guitar. And so Mould began working with electronics.
The result is Modulate, split between songs heavy on electronics, and more traditional Mould compositions, which fill the second half of the album. The tour itself features more electric guitar than his late-'90s acoustic tours, accompanied by superbly recorded, canned backing. Even older songs receive a face-lift. Mould appears before two telescreens playing with short films queued to the music, running the gamut from ambient textures to short stories to the boldly sexual.
It can be somewhat disconcerting seeing Mould range around the center of stage, alone with the wall of sound. The prescripted set also leaves little time for Mould's classic wit. But there's no quibbling with the performance. Summarizing his new direction at a recent show, Mould told the audience, "The response has been a challenge, but then, how hard was it to stand up here with Sugar?"
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