Bob Mould

Sunshine Rock

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At the end of the '90s, Bob Mould declared he was done with guitar-based rock & roll and he was looking for a new focus for his creative impulses. Two decades later, Mould has not only had a dramatic change of heart about that, he's making some of the best and most powerful rock of his career, while fronting what is arguably the best band he's ever had. The biggest difference between Mould's albums from 2012's Silver Age onward and his iconic work with Hüsker Dü and Sugar is that his songwriting has developed an emotional honesty and personal gravity that, as strong and passionate as his earlier work was, he never quite found before. And in bassist Jason Narducy and drummer Jon Wurster, Mould has discovered an appallingly good rhythm section who can hit hard without losing sight of the melodies, and when they lock in, they're as tight and sympathetic as anyone could wish. 2019's Sunshine Rock is Mould's fourth album with Narducy and Wurster, and on one hand it looks back to past glories, blending the melodic sensibilities and pop shadings of Sugar with the sheer velocity and unrelenting guitars of Hüsker Dü. But with these songs, he is clearly writing in the here and now, often dealing with the challenges of relationships as his 60th birthday becomes faintly visible in the rearview mirror. Mould has never been a stranger to self-doubt, and on songs like "Lost Faith" and "Thirty Dozen Roses," he bitterly confronts himself for his failings and shows little mercy. For a change, though, he spends much of this album striving to be a better man and appreciating the good things that life and love have given him, and the emotional outreach of "Western Sunset," "Sunny Love Song," and the title cut is direct and heartfelt. Mould isn't always comfortable wearing his heart on his sleeve, but here he's learned how to make it work, and it's a welcome surprise. "Camp Sunshine" is a lovely, heartfelt testament to the pure joy of making music and the good fortune he has found in his muse, and "Send Me a Postcard" comes remarkably close to unseating Nirvana's "Love Buzz" as the best Shocking Blue cover ever, a pure blast of rock & roll ecstasy. Sunshine Rock is the fourth installment in one of the most satisfying chapters of Bob Mould's career -- no small statement considering his legacy -- and the tender ferocity of these songs is something no one else could do quite this well.

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