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"Sunshine Rock" features a thoughtful and upbeat Bob Mould

Merge Records
"Sunshine Rock" is Bob Mould's 13th solo album.
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BOB MOULD – Sunshine Rock (Merge) 2019

From Hüsker Dü to Sugar and through his reamarkably varied and solid solo material, singer/songwriter/guitarist Bob Mould returns with, arguably, his sunniest collection yet with four song titles including the word “sun” or “sunshine” in them. Sure, his early solo albums Workbook (1989) and Black Sheets of Rain (1990) are gloomy alt-rock classics, but they reflected where Mould was at that particular moment in time.

These days, Bob Mould (backed up by his pals bassist Jason Narducy and Superchunk drummer and practical joker Jon Wurster), is happy to share a song like the title track where a playful Mould sings: “The moon is meremly a reflection of the sun / Like other stars that seem so far away / I’ll be your astronaut, you know we won’t get caught / We’re headed straight into the sunshine rock.

Reminding me of the recent albums by former Archers of Loaf frontman Eric Bachmann, a positive thread connects these songs, with the strummy, upbeat “Camp Sunshine” featuring a normally glum Mould singing: “We can’t predict the future, you can’t forget the past. Just enjoy the moments we have.”

While I enjoyed 2008’s District Line (my Norman Transcript review here) and 2012’s Silver Age (review here), the other Mould solo records of the past decade didn’t quite grab me. But Sunshine Rock is making up for lost time. And listening to Mould now, he seems to be facing up to issues of age and friendships and love and focusing on the positive. I can’t help but wonder if his old Hüsker Dü bandmate Grant Hart (who died in September 2017) was on his mind as he crafted Sunshine Rock

The driving, melancholic “The Final Years” echoes, thematically, one of my favorite Hüsker Dü numbers, 1987’s “These Important Years,” however while the earlier song highlights youth and a world opening up, "The Final Years" features the singer looking back and focusing on the things in life worth cherishing.

Vocally and forcefully "moving on" also plays a theme, as on "Irrational Poison" and "I Fought." reminding the listener that this is Bob Mould we are listening to, as if there was any confusion.

A cover of Shocking Blue’s 1968 single “Send Me a Postcard” has Mould following Nirvana’s lead in covering a song by the underrated Dutch rock band (“Love Buzz,” recorded by Shocking Blue in 1969 and released as Nirvana’s debut single nearly two decades later).  This song choice makes sense, in light of what Mould revealed in his 2012 autobiography See A Little Light: The Trail of Rage & Melody (which we reviewed here) where I wrote: "(Mould) is drawn to pop music during the late 1960s. He loves the Beatles and the Monkees and starts writing his own songs for a while. This is where his love of a good song – a mixture of melody and melancholy – finds its foundation early in his life."

Now, I admit that if I'm going to pop in a Bob Mould record, Workbook or Black Sheets of Rain are my go-to records. They came out at an important time in my young life and really resonated - and they still do. But we all grow and as I've aged, I've been able to see Bob Mould age, via his music and that has been exciting. And hearing a record like Sunshine Rock, with its tinge of nostalgia, is really groovy. At times it feels more like a lost Sugar session than straightforward Mould solo material. Who cares. This album is a keeper and one of the finest releases in this kooky year of 2019. Give it a spin!

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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