Bob Mould

Body of Song

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In 1998, after the release of his album The Last Dog and Pony Show, Bob Mould announced he was hanging up his electric guitar and exploring other musical avenues outside of rock & roll. More than a few fans expressed some trepidation about Mould's career choice, and that buzz became a roar after Mould released Modulate in 2002, which found him diving head first into electronic music. At least in America, the vast majority of rock fans have not been able to come to terms with the rise of electronica, and regardless of the album's virtues or flaws, few listeners were willing to look past the hard, kinetic surfaces of the music and give the songs a fair hearing. It would appear this prejudice did not escape Mould's notice, as 2005's Body of Song was widely hyped as Mould's return to rock, complete with electric guitars and a live rhythm section. But a spin of the album suggests the album isn't so much a step back to the sound he pioneered in Hüsker Dü and Sugar as an attempt to have things both ways. (The fact that Mould spins regularly at a dance club in Washington, D.C., suggests he hasn't lost interest in electronic music as a creative form.) Many of the cuts on Body of Song sound as if Mould is still thinking club music, but is filtering it through the framework of a three-piece rock band; "(Shine Your) Light Love Hope," "Always Tomorrow," and "I Am Vision, I Am Sound" are dominated by echoed textures, lockstep rhythms, and vocoder-processed vocals that wouldn't be out of place on a house track, but with a live drummer (Brendan Canty from Fugazi on most tracks, who is predictably excellent) and Mould adding a layer of guitar over the top. And while Mould frequently bellows his lyrics with an approximation of the fury of his best-known work, most of the songs on Body of Song deal with deeply problematic relationships and on paper speak more of sorrow, confusion, and misplaced hope than the rage suggested by the bitter wailing he uses to bring them across. Body of Song ultimately feels more like an attempt by Mould to please both his audience and himself than a coherent and confident effort; while it's hardly a failure, it lacks the courage of the admittedly flawed Modulate while falling short of the power of his masterpieces with Sugar and Hüsker Dü, existing in a strange middle ground that doesn't do this talented artist many favors, though there's enough emotional resonance in quieter tunes such as "High Fidelity" and "Gauze of Friendship" to remind you he still has plenty to offer when he knows where he's going.

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