I live for music. It’s probably the most important thing in my life. I’ve written here about Bob Mould, the excellent Sunshine Rock LP (tinyurl.com/zubsunshinebob) and his recent solo tour (tinyurl.com/zubboblive). Bob is a giant figure in my musical canon. Husker Du (get your own umlauts) showed me the way, along with Buzzcocks and Elvis Costello. I’ve pretty much bought every solo record he’s made, and I have the 24-CD Distortion box on the way. I’ve patterned a lot of my own music after him (and fellow Husker Grant Hart, RIP). Bob is very, very important to me.
There’s no mistaking these pandemic times have been incredibly hard for all of us. I am usually a pretty optimistic person but have been cut low by this overwhelming situation. My calendar for years has revolved around upcoming live shows; now, the calendar is blank. This may be too much information for a record review, but the point I’m trying to get to is that from the bone-crushing intro to the second song on Blue Hearts, ‘Next Generation,’ Bob Mould is back, he is rocking ferociously, a la Zen Arcade, and he is pissed off. And it is manna to my soul, just the inoculation of snarl I needed in a rather hopeless time.
For me, this record is nothing but life-affirming. Someone gets it, I feel they get me, and the raging, nasty rock is like a warm, comforting bath. Listening to Blue Hearts (and I’ve listened to it a lot), I don’t feel the need to dissect it like a normal review. The whole thing is tremendous, and cathartic. Get it and bathe yourself in these life-infusing sounds.
Bob really makes the most of his voice on Blue Hearts, and his guitar playing and tone, well there is no one, absolutely no one that makes a guitar sound so noisy and so good. His longtime rhythm section is just fantastic. Jason Narducy on bass is always right there, and I heard a few almost lead-like passages in a few songs. Jon Wurster, a contemporary of our band The Beef People (he was in the NC band The Right Profile back in the day) is the perfect drummer. There, I said it and I meant it. He kills every song. By the way, both Jason and Jon have the funniest Twitter accounts, you should really check them out. (Twitter has been a lifeline in these times too, get an account and follow your favorite artists if you haven’t already).
Recorded at Electrical Audio in Chicago (Steve Albini’s studio, though he didn’t produce the record), the fourteen songs on Blue Hearts rip together non-stop, after the first song, an acoustic ‘Heart On My Sleeve.’ From there, the LP cranks until ending with a more contemplative ‘The Ocean.’
Like I said, I don’t need to discuss individual songs. Blue Hearts works as a whole. It’s easily the best record I’ve heard this year. On the heels of the spectacular Sunshine Rock, Bob Mould remains an essential clarion of beautiful noise, continuing to make great, cohesive albums.
In this year of social distance, Zoom connections, online concerts, and remote everything, real, gut-punching and new sounds are more vital than ever. Music like this feels like all I’ve really got; Bob Mould is keeping rock, and me, alive.
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