Sunshine Superman

An unrepentant Bob Mould keeps to his calling

Bob Mould with bassist Jason Narducy (left) and drummer Jon Wurster (right)

So what becomes of older insurgents of an earlier era? Most have mellowed as they’ve matured, turning their back on punk and pontification to settle into realms befitting an ageing elder. Elvis Costello, David Byrne, Patti Smith, and Graham Parker have all wizened with age, content to veer from wistful reflection to a knowing nod.

Granted, there are some who vet a determination to parlay passion and purpose — the Pixies, the Who, Joan Jett and Dave Grohl in particular — but oftentimes their efforts come across as a shadow of their former selves, lacking the credence and conviction that once electrified their efforts.

It’s natural of course. As we settle into senior status, we tend to become a bit complacent, comfortable in our world and decidedly unmotivated when it comes to shaking up the world at large. Energy is entwined with fervour, but when the the former diminishes, the latter is sure to follow. After awhile one gets the sense that fighting is futile, and no matter how persuasive the cause, it’s best to let others do the crusading.

Bob Mould Sunshine Rock, Merge 2019

So credit Bob Mould, an ever-almighty rocker, with proving that edge doesn’t have to diminish with age. His stance has changed little since the days when he inspired the post punk brigades at the helm of Husker Du and Sugar, the former’s able successor. Throughout his stunning solo career Mould has accrued a fearsome reputation, all entwined with fearsome finesse and aggressive intent. Granted, he’s occasionally veered off course by way of the dance music he spins as a professional deejay, the mellower stance of his superb solo debut Workbook, the literary largess reflected in his intimate autobiography See a Little Light and a dalliance with professional wrestling spent as a consultant. Still, he’s never let his guard down and even now, as his new ironically titled album Sunshine Rock makes clear, he’s not interested in doing so now.

In my book, See a Little Light, I talk about how we all play hot potato with this thing called music,” Mould once told this writer. “We all just sort of have this love for music, and I think we just share that with each other and inspire each other. If that’s affirmation, then so be it.”

Indeed, Sunshine Rock provides all the affirmation needed as far as Mould’s manic tendencies are concerned. It finds him delivering with a frenzy and a fury rarely found in a man nearing his 60th year. Several of the song titles themselves — “The Final Years,” “Sin King,” “I Fought,” and “Lost Faith” — attest to a crafty, combative mood, although the name of the album clearly belies his feisty attitude overall. There’s a solitary moment of respite in the sunny ballad “Camp Sunshine,” but for the most part, Mould maintains his kinetic continuum via raging rockers such as “Sunshine Rock,” “Western Sunset,” “What Do You Wan Me To Do,” and hell, practically every other song in the set.

It’s little wonder then that Mould’s managed to acquire quite a fearsome reputation. I asked him about that over the course of our conversation.

You know, a lot of people say that, but I’m a kind soul, and even more so these days as I get older,” he replied. “So yeah, I’ve heard that before, so that’s a part of me, but the other part is that I have a fucking incredible sense of humor which I don’t share as often as I should. You can ask around on that. I can usually put an entire room in stitches if I want to, but my humor is a secret weapon…”




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Lee Zimmerman

Lee Zimmerman is a writer and columnist based in beautiful Maryville, Tennessee. Over the past 20 years, his work has appeared in dozens of leading music publications. He is also the author of Americana Music: Voice, Visionaries, and Pioneers of an Honest Sound, which will be published by Texas A&M University Press early next year.

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