Bob Mould - Patch the Sky

by D R Pautsch Rating:8 Release Date:2016-03-25

Beware the Ides of March, as Julius Caesar was once warned. And this is a true saying in relation to the godfather of noise, Bob Mould. Skip back 30 years and Bob Mould released the first major label offering from his seminal band Husker Du. At that time, the band were in the midst of infighting that would ultimately lead to them releasing only one more album.

However, Candy Apple Grey, that major label debut, was a striking change of pace and direction for the band. A more mainstream sound, containing some of the most accessible songs in their canon, it was a turning point in many ways.

Skip forward a mere seven years and Mould was riding high again, after a brief solo period, with Sugar, his new band. Their debut album was in the bag, selling records and gaining plaudits as the best album of the year in NME.  However, the dirty little secret Mould had left was that he spent the last week of those recordings recording an ugly twin album. A beast of album released at Easter.  Beaster was a snarling, religiously toned album of beauty but undeniable bitterness.  It was an equal to its predecessor Copper Blue but was less accessible.  Now some twenty three years later Mould releases another album at Easter.  It sees him again re-teamed with Jon Wurster and Jason Narducy, for a third time.  This reinvigorated trio follow up the recent successes with an album worthy of the Mould canon but not as much as a landmark as his previous offerings in March.

Perhaps the reason it feels like a lesser offering than those is that it doesn't break new ground.  Those two albums did just that.  Here Mould does what he does best.  Speed guitar, lots of jangle and a lot of songs about broken relationships.  However, when Mould does that he does it with such a flair you can't help but enjoy every note and second.  Losing Sleep is a drum led number that strays from the template slightly and is all the better for that approach.  Written by the man who opened his autobiography describing his sleep issues due to tinnitus it is a real touchstone moment in the album.  The urgent drumming and bass, counterpoint Mould's vocals as it builds throughout.  This is a trio that is tight and efficient when delivering Mould's dark landscapes, yes this is a dark album.  Mould claims its the darkest of his recent efforts and whilst that is true this album is not as dark as Black Sheets of Rain or Workbook.  Perhaps that's because this is more to do with the first half of the album where Mould releases The End of Things (a typical Mould number with guitars and drums fuzzing together at speed), Voices in My Head (which sits somewhere close to Fort Knox, King Solomon off his self titled solo album in style and chorus) and You Say You which is a joy to listen to as it breezes through.  Yes the subject matter might be dark.  But the tone, tempo and pace are not.  Later on the album gets heavier and darker with the ending note of Monument standing out as a moment of darkness and yet a real strong number too.

This album ultimately is the sound of Mould sounding very comfortable, joined by two bandmates he clearly enjoys playing with and delivering some no nonsense Mould styled music that is up there with anything else he has released.  Its not his strongest solo album.  However, its a damned fine one that has no real low spots at all.  This isn't his second coming, or even his third.  But this new incarnation is still going strong after three very good albums.  Let's hope it continues for some time yet.

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