Bob Mould was on the Late Show With David Letterman last night doing press for his latest single entitled ‘The Descent’. It was full on, intense and a quintessential rock moment. A girl couldn’t help but swoon.
Earlier this year, former Hüsker Dü/Sugar frontman Bob Mould announced that he had signed to Merge for a new album entitled ‘Silver Age’. To piggy back his latest solo effort, Merge released Sugar’s catalogue this past July composing of 1992’s Copper Blue, 1993’s Beaster EP, and 1994’s File Under: Easy Listening– the deluxe reissue and remaster treatment.
‘With his first band, he’d helped invent the American stuff that was eventually labeled “alternative.” The difference in rock music between 1987 and 1992 might have seemed infinitely vast at the time, but Mould was one of several solid links between the two moments. Punk had “broken” in 1991 (Mould is in the documentary, and was in the running to produce Nevermind), and “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, made by a band whose drummer worshipped Hüsker Dü, had more or less invented the Modern Rock radio format that Sugar would soon slot into. One branch down on the family tree is the Copper track “A Good Idea”, which Mould calls “an unconscious homage” to the Pixies’ “Debaser”. The Pixies, whose “Gouge Away” provided the template for “Teen Spirit”, and who had in 1984 recruited its own bassist by running an ad for someone whose influences combined “Hüsker Dü and Peter Paul & Mary.” It was as if Mould had never left. He was right in the thick of the musical legacy he’d helped build, dialoguing with his peer/descendents not by virtue of the instant nostalgia model of current vintage, but because one of the most prolific songwriters of his generation had a bunch of new ideas.
During the recording sessions for Copper, Mould kept some songs aside, labeling these darker, unfinished cuts “B” songs to Copper’s pop-driven “A” material. They would become the Beaster EP, released seven months after Copper to capitalize on what had become a groundswell of hype around Sugar, abetted by MTV playing “Mind” in semi-regular rotation.
The album is bookended by the woozy, MBV-influenced “Come Around” and “Walking Away”, and peaks with the titanic 12-minute midsection punch of “Judas Cradle” and “JC Auto”. Those last two rank with anything on In Utero in terms of sheer force– Travis’ opening drums for “Auto” sound like nothing less than Bill Rieflin’s booming trapwork for Ministry– and of course sacrilegious content (the album was titled as a nod to Easter and released to coincide with the holiday. No one’s ever accused Mould of not having a sense of humour). Beaster is the one recording that the fantastic Merge remasters do the most justice– it’s louder, deeper, and better than ever.’ (http://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/16862-sugar-reissues/)
If you are a fan of bands like the Foo Fighters, Queens of a Stone Age, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden – Bob Mould is the man who single handily influenced these artists’ musical style and sound. It’s worth paying homage and putting some cash behind the poppa of this genre of music.
The Merge reissues of Copper, Beaster, and FU:EL (which contains two live sets and all B-sides from the era, plus oral histories of all three releases) gain a little extra shine in this context. They’re a wonderfully presented document of a punk legend, starting over creatively and emotionally in a brief window he helped open, and succeeding beyond his and anyone’s expectations. Silver Age is also available now through Merge Records for purchase. http://www.mergerecords.com/store/