15 February 2019
Bob Mould - Sunshine Rock
Bob Mould is one of the pillars of US Alternative Rock! I mean, what else can you say about this man! How can you articulate something new about the man who was one of the driving forces in the phenomenal Hüsker Dü, the boss in Sugar (a band which seems to have sadly been forgotten these days) and a decorated solo artist in his own right as well. Following on from Patch the Sky which was released in 2016, Sunshine Rock was first announced in October 2018, with recording sessions taking place in Oakland, San Francisco and Berlin. I've been looking forward to this album a lot, but with no idea why. I've deliberately kept away from anything released from the album, just for the joy of listening to an album without any preconceptions of the sound, songs or overall feeling of the album. It's a rare thing in the digital age, to have a surprise. However, will the album be surprising? Will it be the same old stuff? Well, only one way to find out.....
01 - Sunshine Rock
Starting off the album with the title track is sometimes a double-edged sword as well. It shows confidence in the title source, it shows a passion for everything to do with the album, it shows a single-minded attitude behind this record. It's an old school alternative number, a love song with a fuzzy guitar, a few strings in the middle and a brilliant hook. I love this song, it's a great opening track with a positive beat and uplifting music.
02 - What Do You Want Me To Do
"What Do You Want Me To Do" is Bob mould 101, it's a song that he's written many times before and will do again on future albums. You have the loud guitars, the smashing drums and a song that you can loop in on itself to become a personal mantra. It oozes sunshine, it has swagger and it sounds great. So it might sound familiar, what's exactly wrong with that? Nothing, nothing at all.....
03 - Sunny Love Song
Ah, the song which sounds like summer, but lyrically it's all gone to shit! I love this sort of song, the dual nature of the music and the words are so enticing. Whilst this is clearly an alternative rock song, it's also a Power-pop number. It comes from both worlds, it has a great hook and a melody that can be stuck in your head for days to come.
04 - Thirty Dozen Roses
Well, we're still on the loud side of Bob Mould's musical palette. "Thirty Dozen Roses" is a loud song, the distortion is in full effect and the misery is raining once again. Now, if you're familiar with the previous works of Bob Mould, then if I said this one bridged the sound of the album Bob Mould at it's heaviest with Sugar, then you should get a good idea of how "Thirty Dozen Roses" sounds.
05 - The Final Years
"The Final Years" is the first slow number for Sunshine Rock, one that feels like the final track of a teen comedy from the late '90s/early '00s. It's full of anxiety, wondering how things could have been different and wondering what went wrong. There's a drifting sensation to "The Final Years", it goes by in a pleasant way, but it keeps on drifting away as well. It's a decent number, not doing anything wrong, but it's not an essential song on Sunshine Rock.
06 - Irrational Poison
"Irrational Poison", is another slow number, but one that wouldn't have been out of place on a Sugar album. This tale of self-inflicted wounds, laced together with a small amount of distortion, loud drums and synth-strings over the end is an attention-grabbing number. It's over a little too quickly for my tastes, but it's a good number none the less.
07 - I Fought
When I listen to "I Fought", I'm hearing the sound of a man paying tribute. I'm not 100% sure, but in mind, this is his tribute to Grant Hart. It's a raw number, the emotional carnage and broken ties laid bare. But even if it's about someone else, this is still a beautiful, angry and emotive number.
08 - Sin King
"Sin King" is full of political overtones, with a mixture of sweet memories and regret about how things have turned out. Again, it could be about something else, but I'm reading a political statement in this song. Musically, this is another song that could have been on a Sugar album, with a hint of "Explode & Make-Up" to the music. I love it's back to basics nature and loud guitars, it makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up, it's a beautiful number. Mr Mould sounds at his best with this type of number, it's probably his strongest suit and one of the best songs on Sunshine Rock as well.
09 - Lost Faith
Now, this is an interesting song, one that has an '80s feeling to it, but not in a Hüsker Dü way. It's very light, gentle as a lover's caress and it feels like a stripped back New Order number. Again, its a song with a sad lament to it, a feeling of loss and anger, betrayal and frustration. Each time I've put it on, I've found something else about it that I didn't notice the last time. It's a bit of an enigma to me, but one that I enjoy all the same.
10 - Camp Sunshine
Sometimes, a song can feel a little too burdened, as if more instruments were added when less would have been more. For me, "Camp Sunshine" is that type of song. A gentle song about wanting to protect the past, maybe even go back to a favourite holiday destination, but awaiting to pass on some guidelines for the future. Now, if this was just an acoustic guitar, it would have worked for me. However, it has percussion, bass, keys and too many layers. It's a good song, but it's had too much added to it.
11 - Send Me A Postcard
"Send Me A Postcard" is a cover the song originally by Shocking Blue, which was written by Robbie van Leeuwen. To be honest, I'm yet to hear the original, so I can only give this review based on this version. It's a quick punchy number, one that has a glam rock influence and it gives the album back some energy. I like it a lot, it's another piece of sunshine on this record.
12 - Western Sunset
"Western Sunset" ends Sunshine Rock with a bang! I mean, it's a Power-pop ending with strings, loud riffs and smashing drums. You could easily overthink a number such as this, is there any hidden meanings to the words? Well, this listener is going to enjoy the riff, strings and take it at face value. "Western Sunset" is the perfect ending for this type of album, carefree and soaring above the waves, what is there not to love?
With Sunshine Rock, it feels as if Bob Mould has looked over his shoulder slightly. There is a reflective feeling to this record, one that could be read in a couple of ways. Is it yearning for a different past? Or is it a man who is proud of his past and all the victories and mistakes in equal measure? I think that once I've read some interviews with the man himself, I might have a better idea. For now, I can only guess at the nature and mindset of Mr Mould. But I can say that the music he has created on Sunshine Rock is fantastic. It feels like a greatest hits compilation from many places in his career, but each of these songs is a brand new number. Familiarity and that new exciting sensation all mixed into one, what is there not to love on Sunshine Rock? Nothing, just go with the flow!
9 out of ten - Almost perfect, almost
Top track - Thirty Dozen Roses
You can purchase Sunshine Rock from Amazon here.
You can visit the Bob Mould website here.
You can follow the activities of Bob Mould on Facebook here.
You can stream Sunshine Rock on Spotify here.
You can stream Sunshine Rock on Deezer here.
You can stream Sunshine Rock on Tidal here.
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