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Emotional, Enjoyable “District Line”

James Costa | Wednesday, April 2, 2008

In his seventh solo offering, Bob Mould gives us “District Line.” Well crafted, it is a welcome follow-up to 2005’s “Body of Song,” featuring more of the rocking and thrashing sounds that made Mould a legend in bands such as Hüsker Dü and Sugar. Teaming up with the explosive energy of Fugazi drummer Brendan Canty, Mould uses “District Line” to make a triumphant return to the live band-sounding experience to produce a ten song record that is as animated, pulsing and unswerving as anything Mould has done before.

What Mould does as a writer and musician is not so different from the tried and true hit making methods of almost any other successful rocker. He finds a few catchy chords and melodies, writes emotive lyrics to go along with the music and then infuses his own soul and spirit into the words and tabs on the page to make the songs live and breathe on their own.

At this point in his career, there is an added element to the recording on “District Line” that is distinctly Mould. After years of personal strife and confusion, Mould seems to be a happily adjusted gay American man in his late 40s. No longer struggling to keep his most private details out of the public eye, Mould now engages with his music and his listeners in a liberating and exciting expression of freedom; freedom to become the person that one is intrinsically designed to be and to share the unique art that only that person can create.

The first track on the record, “Stupid Now,” is the throbbing rock track Husker and Sugar fans have been thirsting. The song gives voice to a man working out his clearly conflicting feelings about sharing and saying too much from the heart to someone who sadly does not care enough. The first verse is delivered in a decidedly straightforward nature, with each following verse becoming more and more digitized and echoed.

The words bound across the indelible space of the song, receiving no response from the one desired listener. Mould finishes by belting out repeatedly in a full shout, “Haven’t I been enough of a fool for you? / Everything I say to you feels stupid now.” It is raw rock-and-roll music, yet also deeply emotional and sad, which makes it rather distinctly brilliant.

A few of the songs can run the fine line of being a bit too cliché. The lyrics, while coming from an honest well of inspiration, do at times feel a bit junior high sentimental and sweet. One particularly enjoyable line, which is just a bit weak for Mould’s, is found on the track “Old Highs New Lows” as he sings, “We lock the gaze tightly upon each other/ No others come near, no others come between.” With so many depressing sentiments shared across the tracks of the record, such lyrics are a welcome, if momentary, respite from the obvious emotional tribulations being so honestly shared.

Overall, it’s a great record. It moves along with refreshing speed and musical punch, not allowing the listener much time to dwell on any one song or moment before being thrust into a new sphere of sound and lyric sensation. Mould has created a record that tells us its okay to be sad, just like its okay to sometimes be alone, especially when its not the shallow impulses of others, but only ourselves, who can bring us out of the darkness of melancholy and into the fresh light of new experience and new day.