Alt-rock icon Bob Mould has made his share of confessional albums layered with deeply personal sentiments, but his latest project isn't one of them. "Silver Age is exactly what it appears to be: It's 38 minutes of rock," Mould says of the album, which Rolling Stone premieres exclusively today. "People can feel free to parse the songs and make what they want of them, but I didn't really have any agenda there."
That's not entirely true, but Mould's agenda had less to do with baring his soul than raising his pulse. After dissecting his own life for last year's memoir See a Little Light: A Trail of Rage and Melody, Mould was ready to do something that didn't require sitting still and being introspective. The result is a propulsive album full of bristling songs as catchy as any Mould has written, with no trace of the electronic elements Mould has dabbled in over the years.
"It's a really simple, natural reactionary record after the three-year process of writing the autobiography, which is all about editing and all about the wordy stuff of writing a book," says Mould, who anchored the influential Eighties punk band Hüsker Dü and the Nineties power-pop trio Sugar. "So it was nice to throw down a simple pop record."
It's no coincidence that Silver Age arrives 20 years after Copper Blue, Sugar's 1992 debut. Merge Records this year reissued the touchstone album, which Mould has been playing in its entirety on the road.
"I wanted to put together a companion piece, something that would complement the sentiment of that album, the aesthetic of that album," says Mould, who recorded Silver Age with drummer Jon Wurster and bassist Jason Narducy. "I really wanted to celebrate that record, because to me it's one of my three favorites that I've been part of."
The other two? His 1989 solo debut, Workbook, and Hüsker Dü's 1985 album Flip Your Wig. "Hüsker fans are always surprised, like 'Why did you pick that one when there's Zen Arcade or New Day Rising?'" Mould says. "But that was the record where Hüsker Dü was completely in control of their own destiny."
In addition to Copper Blue and his own reaction to writing his autobiography, Mould credits Foo Fighters as an inspiration for Silver Age. The singer contributed vocals and guitar to Foo Fighters' 2011 album Wasting Light, and he opened for Dave Grohl's band on tour last year. "Being up on stage with those guys and being in that setting, it sort of reminded me, this is what I do," Mould says. "When I got off of their stuff in December of '11, I went home and banged out the remainder of Silver Age pretty quickly."
Mould spent most of the summer playing Copper Blue at festivals, which didn't allow enough time on stage to mix in many songs from Silver Age. That will change, he says, when he starts a headlining tour September 7th in Brooklyn. "I think to pair it up with Copper Blue in the live show will be really fun," Mould says.
Silver Age is out September 4th on Merge.