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Bob Mould - Blue Hearts (Album Review)

Thursday, 08 October 2020 Written by Huw Baines

Photo: Blake Little Photography

Whenever something terrible happens, there are always people out there who enjoy saying things like, “Well, at least we’ll get some good punk records out of this.” That such an asinine thought would contain a kernel of truth is of little comfort to anyone, anywhere in the real world. The music itself, though, can make a mark. Bob Mould’s ‘Blue Hearts’ makes a mark.

Mould hasn’t sounded this angry for 35 years. ‘Blue Hearts’ has Donald Trump in its sights and Ronald Reagan on its mind—two celebrity Presidents who rode religious fervour and deep-rooted prejudice to the highest office in the land. “This is trickle-down racism,” Mould recently told the Guardian, grimly noting the parallels between Trump’s mishandling of Covid-19 and Reagan’s callous non-reaction to the Aids epidemic.

“I never thought I’d see this bullshit again,” Mould howls on American Crisis, the song that set the template for the album as a whole.

Over slashing guitars and the thunderous, locked in rhythm section of drummer Jon Wurster and bassist Jason Narducy, he mounts a furious state of the union address, channelling a level of noise and fervour that haven’t been regular contributors to his sound since Hüsker Dü changed the face of punk rock in the mid-1980s.

This febrile situation is matched, as ever, by Mould’s commitment to melody. As well as being a statement of rage, ‘Blue Hearts’ is a superb entry point for his solo work and the Sugar discography, where he has more regularly sought to sculpt perfect pop songs. Here, Everyth!ng To You perhaps gets closest to that ideal, joining the dots between the present and the early ‘90s, when Mould’s status as one of indie-rock’s founding fathers was thrust under the spotlight by Nirvana’s Hüsker Dü worship.

‘Blue Hearts’ feels vital in the here and now, and it also serves as a reminder of the breadth and quality of Mould’s back catalogue. By invoking Hüsker Dü a little more readily than he has in the past, it only underlines how deep his influence is on bands currently seeking to channel their anger into something cogent and (potentially) helpful.

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