Heart On His Sleeve

I’ve been a great admirer of Bob Mould for many, many years, going back to Husker Du and Sugar, but my interest in his new music faded after 1998’s The Last Dog and Pony Show. Granted, he had to take some time to find himself as middle-age approached, and his music for the next decade or so reflected that. It was up and down, and to me lacked the fiery passion of his work in the ‘80s and ‘90s. That all changed in 2012 when Mould turned the volume up a hundredfold and emerged with a wicked new backing band and an album in Silver Age that rivalled anything Sugar ever did. He and bassist Jason Narducy and drummer John Wurster have become a formidable trio, and released a rather prolific string of records, capped off in 2019 with the absolutely wonderful Sunshine Rock. That album was so brimming with positivity that it was jarring. Bob was happy, truly happy, and he made a point to make a record that reflected that.

Then came 2020, the year everything and everyone seemed to turn sour. Including Bob Mould. As wonderful as it was to hear him making some life-affirming music after decades of angst, the angst and rage returned with a vengeance on Blue Hearts, an album created specifically to reflect the troubling times we’re living in. And as great as Sunshine Rock is, Blue Hearts might be even better. First off, it is hellaciously loud, often as fast as ‘80s hardcore, and always unrelenting in its defiance. Narducy and Wurster match Bob step for step on these blistering tracks, to the point where the album starts to feel like a natural progression of Husker Du. You can hear oddly familiar melodic patterns that are completely reminiscent of Husker Du. 14 songs is often a lot to cram on to an album, but Blue Hearts is so tight, so focused, that you don’t sense any bloat whatsoever. The pace is brisk, the volume is high, the energy sounds like these guys are in their 20s, and best of all, Bob Mould sounds reinvigorated yet again. The man is in the middle of an extraordinary late-career renaissance right now, and I’m just going to savour every minute of it.