Bob Mould

Beauty & Ruin

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There is a tension within the title of Beauty & Ruin, Bob Mould's tenth solo album, a tension that can also be heard in the music. Written and recorded in the wake of the death of Mould's somewhat estranged father, Beauty & Ruin is a heavier album than its predecessor Silver Age in both emotional and musical terms. Where that 2012 record was a reaffirmation of his strengths, a happy reclamation of all the blaring, candied punk-pop rush of Sugar, this digs deeper, finding room for the churning introspection of Beaster and a bit of the furious mania of prime Hüsker Dü. This versatility is confirmation that his 2010s band, anchored by bassist Jason Narducy (formerly of Verbow and now of Split Single) and Superchunk drummer Jon Wurster, might be his most accomplished supporting group ever, able to follow him through the storms and settle into the aftermath. Although this opens with the slow, grinding "Low Season" and eventually winds its way to the bright, open "Forgiveness," most of this record is devoted to turmoil, as Mould comes to terms with his impending mortality -- hanging over him through both the passing of his dad and his own middle-age -- by drawing sustenance from his signature combination of crystalline pop and molten noise. As loud as this gets, what matters is the subtleties of tone: Silver Age felt like a positive reclamation but Beauty & Ruin is somber, feeling sober even at its most joyous moments; "I Don't Know You Anymore," "Tomorrow Morning," and "Hey Mr. Grey" are fueled by ebullient hooks but what they deliver is clutched and coiled, hinting at the intensity of New Day Rising even when there's no denying Mould isn't attempting to reclaim his youth at all. This self-aware mortality is the trump card of Beauty & Ruin, as Mould neither denies his youth nor his age; as he explores his pain, he finds emotional and musical narrative to tie his past to his present and the results are powerful.

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