REVIEW - Bob Mould - District Line
The 1980’s are seldom remembered as a particularly creative musical decade. Shift the focus though, from the nouveau pop of the Thompson Twins or Phil Collins’ solo career and that assessment might just change. It was, in reality a tremendously vital era that yielded the likes of the Replacements, R.E.M. and Husker Du. College radio was king and people like me were spending more on records every week than on food. (Music was our food man!) I remember that wet, grey day I found my vinyl copy of Zen Arcade in the new release bin at Records on Wheels. It was heavy, gorgeous, heartbreaking and very loud. Its four sides drew me into a particularly dark place that was entirely new. After repeated listening I realized I could disappear in its grooves in the same way as reading a good book or seeing an amazing film.
Zen Arcade was an album that informed my musical sensibilities even to this day. It was a little bit of music magic and I loved it. Much like the Replacements Let It Be, the Huskers album engaged me and quite literally changed the way I listen to music. In the twenty plus years since then, Bob Mould, the principle creator of the former elpee has explored a myriad of musical styles and creative outlets with varying degrees of success. Along the way I have followed his lead but only occasionally did it touch consistent genius. This is not so much a case of “they don’t make music like they used to” but rather a lament to see the brilliance continue. (Affect me like you did twenty years ago and I’ll be there.)
Flash ahead to February 2008 and I am there. The songwriter is back with a brand new record called District Line. This one however, melds perfectly the punk, pop, and even techno of the past to formulate a terrifically cohesive set of songs. Right from the start this one had me in its clutches. Occasionally nostalgic, songs like “Old Highs, New Lows” and “Return to Dust” do indeed take me right back to that affecting place, it just feels like the walls are newly painted and the room not quite so dark. Its an evolution that works. Fugazi drummer, Brendan Canty is back and his distinctive drumming style provides a terrific counterpoint to Mould’s familiar “grungy” guitar. As well, Amy Domingues again adds beautifully bittersweet cello to the set to remarkable effect.
So everything old is truly new again and it’s refreshing as hell. Mould gets the creative blend just right this time and as an active listener I couldn’t be happier. I just hope I'm as vital and relevant twenty years on.