Home Music Music Lists

Bob Mould: My Life in 15 Songs

Indie-rock vet surveys Hüsker Dü hardcore ragers, electronica-informed solo experiments and more

Bob Mould; My Life in 15 Songs

Catherine McGann/Getty

One of the elder statesmen of indie rock, Bob Mould is now 55, and in rehearsals with his current trio, he's learning the fine art of thrashing with dignity. "It's always pretty physical," Mould says from his current home, San Francisco, where he's lived since 2009. "But with age comes that ability to play smarter instead of harder. I can get the same effect without completely wrecking myself. And I have to. I can't conjure up the same physically when I was 20, and I'm just that not crazy mad at the world anymore."

Perhaps not, but as Mould's plugged-in new album, Patch the Sky, demonstrates, the former Hüsker Dü frontman has hardly calmed down. The album is very much of a piece with Mould's work over the last 35 or so years, a window-rattling reminder of the time when indie rock — a term that now can mean just about anything — was fierce and uncompromising.

Raised in upstate New York, Mould moved to St. Paul in the late Seventies to major in urban studies at Macalester College, a liberal arts school. There, he met drummer Grant Hart and bass player Greg Norton, and the trio (initially augmented by a keyboardist, Charlie Pine) rehearsed in Norton's basement. Eventually, they dubbed their band Hüsker Dü (Swedish for "do you remember?") after a vintage board game. Balancing raving, raging hardcore with melodic songcraft, like a hurricane with pop hooks, Hüsker Dü made some of the most indelible music of the Eighties before self-destructing in 1988 (a tale laid out in candid form in Mould's 2011 memoir, See a Little Light: The Trail of Rage and Melody).

In the decades since that band's breakup, Mould has embarked on a journey has taken him in and out of power trios (including the short-lived Sugar) and into electronic music, and he's approached it all with the same intensity and forward motion. He insists that the launch of a Hüsker Dü online merch store last fall does not augur any sort of reunion, and one of his few concessions to nostalgia was his 2012 tour commemorating the 20th anniversary of Sugar's Copper Blue. "I could have toured Copper Blue for four years, but oh, God," he says. "I don't intend on slowing down or stopping." We slowed him down just enough to extract his thoughts on 15 highlights from his music and career.

Play video

“Silver Age” (2012)

I had started my book in the fall 2008 and it came out in 2011. It was a crazy time for me. I was doing readings, and there was a crazy amount of love coming at me from all directions. A period of reflection had begun with [2009's] Life and Times. A lot of looking back. It was in the same mindset as on Workbook. There was a lot of reflection in 1988, and now it was 20 years later. I forced it a little bit in hindsight, but it wasn't a coincidence that it was 20 years.

Silver Age came together very quickly with a lot of love and energy. But it didn't stop me from being defiant in "Silver Age" or "Star Machine." Being grateful to make another record, but still being a smart-ass. "Silver Age" [in which Mould sings, "Stupid little kid wanna hate my game/I don't need a spot in your hall of fame"] is about any hall of fame, any kind of legendary-status thing. There are plenty of people in front of me in line for that. It was making fun of myself and poking a bit of fun at a process of, "Who are we to decide these things?" It's a real fuck-you song, a sort of, "Fuck all of it, whatever!" You think, life is short and I can't worry about things I can't affect, whether it's a hall of fame or any stuff like that.

Play video

“The End of Things” (2016)

Living in San Francisco right now is like living on some indistinct precipice. It's fucking insane. California's always been a gold rush, but now it's data mining instead of gold mining. It could fall apart at any time. In the past, there have been earthquakes, and things can change very quickly when something like that happens. Relationships can start and end at any given point. There are days when my mind wanders into places where, "What happens if it does fall apart, so to speak? What if everything collapses?" And I also like the idea that people walk around and say, "Oh, it's the Internet of things." This whole new protocol — smartphones and stuff like that. And I thought, "How about the end of things?"

It's a really cool song, and it's got the space between verses so I can get off the microphone for two and a half seconds when we play live and stretch my legs a bit and jump around. And much like "Makes No Sense at All" or "Everything Falls Apart," when I'm singing, "It's the end of things, the end of everything," you can't beat that for darkness. But I can't make it much catchier than the way I sing it. It's the current epitome of the contrast I use in my work. It's the brightest chorus with the darkest title. Of course!

Show Comments