Ever since he opened up in his autobiography (QRO review), Bob Mould has been enjoying an upswing both critically and commercially (signing to Merge Records didn’t hurt, either…). He’s both re-embraced his older material such as nineties Copper Blue (QRO deluxe edition review) with Sugar and first solo record Workbook (QRO deluxe edition review), including playing them live (QRO Copper Blue live review – QRO Workbook live review), and put out an acclaimed new album, 2012’s Silver Age (QRO review). But can he keep it up? With Beauty & Ruin, Mould shows that he ages like fine wine.
With such a long and storied discography, Mould could naturally rest on his laurels and produce material just the same as before. Beauty doesn’t run away from his heritage (unlike his ill-advised delve into electronica in the start of this century/millennium), but draws from all of it. There’s the faster, hard-hitting Hüsker Dü (QRO spotlight on) Mould in tracks like “Little Glass Pill”, “Kid with Crooked Face” and “Tomorrow Morning”, but also the slow and dark, almost psych, Beaster (QRO deluxe edition review)-era Sugar on “Low Season” and “Nemeses Are Laughing”. Mould can also pull off straight-up alt-rock (which he helped invent) with “The War” and “Hey Mr. Grey”. He can be catchy in single “I Don’t Know You Anymore” or closer “Fix It” – there’s even some acoustic Mould, though it’s less Workbook and more ‘up-with-life’ on “Let the Beauty Be” and “Forgiveness” (though the latter actually sounds like a male acoustic version of “Back In Your Head” by Tegan & Sara – QRO spotlight on).
There are two things you know with Bob Mould: One, everyone is still waiting for the Hüsker Dü reunion (don’t hold your breath…); two, that everything he does will be compared to his massive amount of high-quality older material (“I Don’t Know You Anymore” immediately makes one think of Sugar’s “I Can’t Help You Anymore” – QRO video). But a third should be added: that he’ll always deliver.