Sound — 8
Choosing to open his new album with Stupid Now, with its crashing chords and pleading chorus, speaks volumes of where Bob Mould's creative heart is at these days. The track's urgency and volume swells hark back to his heavier moments in Sugar and even latter period Husker Du. This is the Mould that we all love and hold close to our heart. This is the Mould who wrote Hoover Dam and Makes No Sense At All. After a few years of experimenting with loops and dance rhythms and an uneven semi-return to guitar-rock (2004's Body of Song), it's great to hear him kick off his new album, District Line, with the charging Stupid Now. Things down slow down on the next track, Who Needs To Dream. The clean guitars drive along to the steady beat put down by former Fugazi drummer Brendan Canty with Mould even laying down a tasteful solo towards the end of the song. This is the kind of glistening guitar-pop that younger bands like Taking Back Sunday and Dashboard Confessional would give up their firstborns for! The stellar The Silence Between Us can be put up against the best material from his extensive catalog. Its candy-coated vocal melodies and classic quiet-loud-quiet structuring makes it the centerpiece of the album. The double tracked vocals during the bridge practically scream at you to turn the volume to it's maximum! The bass sound on this particular track is also an example of how a simple and direct tone can really make an impression during quieter sections.
Lyrics — 9
Mould's stronger lyrical work has often come from his more vitriolic moments. Songs from his past work like Paralyzed and Explode & Make Up seethe with Morrissey-like acrimony. Division Line offers up more songs in this acidic tradition but the tension is somewhat tempered this time out. But don't count him out of the bitterness sweepstakes just yet! He strikes out at a former flame on the delicately strummed Again and Again, with daggers like I'm glad it worked out for you, but you're only fooling yourself if you think you won't do it again and again. He pleads, All the triggers pulled at once, so begins my ugly fall from grace, on the same song. With lines that biting, it's hard to imagine they weren't inspired out of pages from his personal life. The lyric that has gained the most attention in other reviews has been, growing old it's hard to be an angry young man, from Return To Dust. With Mould turning 48 years old later this year, it seems like he's at peace and even, dare I say it, comfortable in his own skin.
Overall Impression — 9
From his storied punk years to his forays into dance music and even a stint as a writer for World Championship Wrestling in the late '90s behind him, he's a journeyman in every sense of the meaning. After all is said and done, District Line leaves you with the feeling that Mould has come full circle artistically. Now signed to a division of Epitaph Records, it can even be looked at some other way he's returned to his punk roots. But the writing and playing here is not held down to one specific footing. He manages to incorporate traces of all the flavors that have adorned his recordings throughout his three decade career. But the varied elements never sound forced here. Shelter Me even flirts with Mould's well-documented love for electronic textures and it actually falls into the threadwork of the album perfectly. The anthemic choruses that were so abundant in his Sugar days are revisited here along with the bash and bang charm of his Husker Du output. It's as though District Line is a mix-tape of the singer's various eras and it definitely would be a fine place to start for a first-time fan. If you're a life-long fan like myself, not only is the album a testament to Mould's genius, it's also proof that getting older doesn't necessarily have to be so safe.