Bob Mould Channels Hüsker Dü on Savagely Upbeat 'Sunshine Rock' - Rolling Stone
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Review: Bob Mould Channels Hüsker Dü on Savagely Upbeat ‘Sunshine Rock’

It’s a pleasure to hear new music from Mould during America’s current cultural crisis. What may surprise you is how violently happy he can sound

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Bob Mould discusses his new solo album, 'Sunshine Rock,' and remembers his onetime Hüsker Dü bandmate, Grant Hart.

Alicia J. Rose

Hüsker Dü began making records in the Reagan era, and their hardcore-punk-bad-trip-psychedelia — exemplified in a white-knuckled cover of The Byrds’ “Eight Miles High” — was a perfect reflection of WTF rage at America’s right-wing hijacking. So it’s welcome and fitting to hear new music from ex-frontman Bob Mould during America’s current cultural crisis. What may surprise some, though, is how violently happy Mould can sound on Sunshine Rock. “Look above you, I will love you/In the sunshine” he hollers on the title track, savoring the feel of “a cool breeze blowing through my beard” with a tambourine shimmy, “bop-bop-ba-dop” backing vocals, and the Prague TV Orchestra sawing merrily away. Things sound even brighter on “Sunny Love Song,” Mould snarling, “My troubles, they have ended/ My sorrows ended too/
I should write a sunny love song every day/ I will shine so bright on you so true.” And “Camp Sunshine,” a gently strummed ballad about the escapist joys of making music, glows like an indie-rock Moonrise Kingdom.

But no worries, dark-siders — there are shit-tons of worries here. Sunshine Rock is more about fighting for love and happiness than realizing it in any stable way. “Every day I ask myself/How and when does sadness end? /Many ways to hurt myself/ Lost again,” Mould sings on “Lost Faith,” a song that see-saws between bottoming out and yanking oneself up from the abyss. It’s a resonant tension mirrored across the entire album. “Sin King” suggests a failed love affair, but also a metaphor of an American who feels his country has broken faith (Mould has recently been living in Berlin). “The Final Years” is a mid-tempo meditation on how to spend your golden years. Any contemplation of mortality here stands to reason: Mould’s friend and Hüsker Dü bandmate Grant Hart died in 2017 in the wake of their curating the Savage Young Dü compilation, a massive anthology of the group’s earliest recordings, most nearing 40 years old.

Those experiences might explain Sunshine Rock’s intensity, though Mould isn’t known for chill-out music, fondness for German techno notwithstanding. Among the album’s most ferocious songs is “Thirty Dozen Roses,” a hairshirt thrasher about being a “lousy prick” which steamrolls over questionable puns with a Hüsker-ish hardcore attack. The most delightful might be “Send Me A Postcard,” the album’s sole cover, a remake of the 1968 single by the Shocking Blue, a Jefferson Airplane-ish garage-psych gem that finds Mould raging “How can I make you understand? I wanna be your woman!” It’s totally awesome, tortured and joyous in perfect balance, and it does what Mould’s music has always done, even at its bleakest — exorcising demons through rock noise. “Baby, we all lose faith in troubled times,” he sings at one point on Sunshine Rock. Then he shakes it off, and keeps moving.

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