Workbook - by Walter Biggins & Daniel Crouch

by D R Pautsch Rating: Release Date:
Workbook - by Walter Biggins & Daniel Crouch
Workbook - by Walter Biggins & Daniel Crouch

The latest 33 1/3 book is an examination of Bob Mould’s debut solo effort Workbook.  If you are familiar with the series the examination of the albums can take many different approaches and this one is an exploration through two friends and their correspondence on the album. They do interview the man himself as well as others but it is the unfolding correspondence that holds the whole album up to analysis that gradually draws more and more out of the album.

For those unfamiliar with Workbook it is an album full of acoustics and melody and to many is a complete about face from Husker Du’s speed metal.  This isn’t actually quite true though.  From the double album zenith of Zen Arcade, Husker Du gradually retreated from the speed metal that gloriously brought them to attention.  Their first major label album, Candy Apple Grey, was a melodic and restrained affair in stark contrast to earlier offerings.  Grant Hart also released more restrained albums following the demise of Husker Du.  All of these points and far more are discussed at length by the writers Walter Biggins and Daniel Couch in the point by point discourse.  They seem intent on convincing each other of the relative merits and flaws of the album and of its place in Bob Mould’s work.  You do get the odd glimpse of information about the album you may not have previously been aware of, however these are few and far between and it’s firmly focused on the unfolding analysis and deeper look at the work as a whole.

That Workbook holds up to such scrutiny is not only a testament to its strength and longevity but also of its importance within Bob Mould’s canon of work.  It's pivotal in his transition to the solo artist he is today.   This book brings that point home very well by exploring the album within the context of a man trying to free himself of the legacy he has created and start a new one.  It also contrasts Mould’s recent run of form with this stage of his career and what followed shortly afterwards, the superbly pop oriented Sugar.

The frustrating thing about this book is that it doesn’t quote give enough information about the album and the prism of critique is the focus rather than the work itself.  However, it has a strangely captivating style and the unfolding point and counterpoint approach if very much in keeping with Mould’s own musical sensibilities.  Workbook as an album is a gem, this book doesn’t reach those levels but it leaves you reaching for the album itself and trying to listen to it again with a slightly different sensibility.  Perhaps that’s exactly the point of the book in the first place and it’s the sign of a great album, which Workbook doubtless is, that you can do this.

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