To think there was once a time when 30 was considered way too “old” for a rock musician! I mean, just imagine Mick Jagger singing “Satisfaction” at 40. Crazy thoughts! Surely, a stable career in finance would beckon. Well, for Mr. Jagger, in a sense it did. He just managed to keep his night job.
Bob Mould, on the other hand, nearly retired when he began writing wrestling scripts 10 years ago. His old bass player from Hüsker Dü now runs a restaurant. And while Mould is certainly a guy of many talents, at 47, he’s clearly meant to keep on keepin’ on with this music thing because his latest solo album, District Line — featuring Fugazi’s Brendan Canty on drums and Amy Domingues on cello — sports the kind of natural quality tuneage other songwriters spend a lifetime chasing.
Mould’s always been a mixed-bag kind of guy. Hüsker Dü’s peaks were breathtaking. But whether it was the era’s limited recording budgets, the band’s manic creative pace or the desire to explore every possibility, the Dü could be maddeningly inconsistent. Mould’s early solo work found him searching for his voice, while Sugar initially gave him the loving context he’d been looking for before petering out.
Now, it’s the years of introspection, an acceptance of fortune’s capricious hand, and a confidence in what Mould knows he does best that means tunes like “Again and Again” and “The Silence Between Us” are milked for emotive moments where his voice cracks in trademark sadness. Elsewhere, “Shelter Me” indulges Mould’s fascination with the technological possibilities of the recording studio without sacrificing his “song-first” philosophy. While nothing on District Line sounds like a man staring into a godless abyss and contemplating the meaning of it all, it does possess a mature, suspect beauty, a steadying calm where the guitars still threaten something ominous. Mould’s at peace, but with one eye open. Just in case.
— Rob O’Connor