Directness Comes with ‘Age’
At age 51, rock veteran Bob Mould is still at it. Amid his over 30-year career, he broke new ground as guitar/vocalist for seminal hardcore act Hüsker Dü, found commercial success as head of ’90s alt-rock outfit Sugar, and released no shortage of commendable solo records in the interim. Bob’s second-to-latest solo effort, the subdued and often acoustic Life and Times, saw him in a more autobiographical mood, perhaps due to his contemporaneous book release, the inward-looking See a Little Light: The Trail of Rage and Melody. At times still partial to a little chin scratching—a trait ingenerate to Bob, even back to Hüsker Dü—Silver Age is more about just kickin’ ass.
The album’s self-titled track chugs with punk rock force as Bob lectures the “stupid little kid” who dares discredit his salt-and-pepper bona fides. It’s made abundantly clear the battle-scarred singer was splitting amps and crowd-surfing during a time “junior” sucked his thumb watching Barney & Friends. The album’s racing, rarely interrupted pulse continues in “Briefest Moment,” a lasting straight-ahead grunge number, as well as the terrific “Keep Believing,” which pummels as well as it uplifts, and finds Bob’s cutting vocal sounding like a skateboarding Ozzy Osbourne.
Silver Age does sag in the middle, however. Songs like “Fugue State,” “Round the City Square” and “Angels Rearrange” are delivered with workmanlike ability, but lack the oomph and salience of the album’s firing-on-all-cylinders beginning and end. Such train cars may freight a lighter load, but momentum is never lost and the album’s vector stays its course. Bob and the crew are much too veteran at this to lob some turkeys our way and think us none the wiser.
Ironically enough, the set’s highest peak is “The Descent,” a tidy, ironclad pop rocker. In it Bob repeats, “Can I try to make it up to you somehow?” tense as he is mopey, like an angrier J Mascis of street-cred brethren Dinosaur Jr. If the song’s ’90s sturdiness seems at all Grohl-approved, there’s a reason: Bob has been buddy-buddy with the Fighters Foo for a long time now—and it truly shows in this genius moment, on an altogether very solid record. Bob, no need to fret: You’ve already made it up to us, and that “somehow” is Silver Age itself.