[17 September 2012]
Star Tribune (Minneapolis) (MCT)
MINNEAPOLIS — As if marking the 20th anniversary of his biggest-selling album weren’t enough for one tour, Bob Mould just released one of his best records yet.
“I knew if I went out on the road only to play ‘Copper Blue,’ I was probably going to burst,” said the blunt-speaking rocker, who’s touring with his latest trio.
“Copper Blue,” by Mould’s short-lived power trio Sugar, is one of the most concise, ageless, perfect records of the alt-rock era of the early ‘90s — a wave that Mould, 51, helped ripple to life with Hüsker Dü. The album, which sold about 300,000 in its original incarnation, earned a deluxe-edition reissue in July on Merge Records, the indie label behind Arcade Fire and Spoon.
But that’s not all he’ll play in concert. Merge also just issued the new album “Silver Age,” Mould’s hardest-blasting effort since his Sugar days.
He recorded it with his new bandmates, bassist Jason Narducy (formerly of Verbow) and drummer Jon Wurster (Superchunk) following what he called “a perfect storm” that led to a faster and feistier album.
“I had these moments while making it where I was thinking, ‘Am I copying myself here?’ or, ‘Is this too influenced from hanging out with the Foo Fighters?’” Mould recounted. “Finally, I was like, ‘(Screw) it. Just go with it.’”
Two years ago Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl, a longtime fan, recruited Mould to sing on “Dear Rosemary,” a highlight of the band’s Grammy-winning 2011 album. That led to appearances with the Foo crew, including a Mould tribute concert last fall in Los Angeles that also featured Ryan Adams, Ben Gibbard and members of the Hold Steady.
Those rocking affairs were sharply contrasted by solo gigs and reading engagements to promote Mould’s 2011 autobiography, “See a Little Light: The Trail of Rage & Melody,” in which he opened up about his anger issues, his coming out as a gay man and the many facets of his 33-year music career.
Mould still had plenty to talk about last month in a phone interview from Las Vegas (his house in San Francisco was under construction).
On the factors that led to “Silver Age”: “It was pretty much 1, 2 and 3: I spent a year on the book and was tired of editing every word; I knew the ‘Copper Blue’ stuff was coming, and then hanging out with the Foo guys made some kind of an impression. After the tribute in L.A., I had this burst of songs. That was in December, and then Jason, Jon and I got together Jan. 2. It was just the three of us in a room together in San Francisco, learning the songs, doing takes until it felt right. You can hear that on the record.”
On what he had left to write after his autobiography: “I mostly just wanted these words to pour out, after laboring over all the words in the book. I’d figure out later what they’re all about. Somebody asked me about (the ‘Silver Age’ track) ‘Briefest Moment,’ if it’s about something from my childhood, and it’s not. I had the second verse first, so then I had to set the stage with the first verse and grabbed that line, ‘Just a small-town kid,’ and everybody assumed it was autobiographical. There are things on this album that are based on personal experience, but it’s not like the book. It’s not meant to be torn apart and analyzed. It’s just a rock record.”
On pairing the new songs with “Copper Blue” in concert: “I knew I had to have something current to go with the old stuff, or it’s going to bum me out. I just can’t live that much in the past like that. The shows have been great, having the old and the new. It works really well. The first 40 minutes are ‘Copper Blue,’ and then the next 50 are ‘Silver Age’ songs or whatever else we want to do, including even older stuff.”
On the reasons behind the Sugar reissues: “That era of writing that stuff and getting with (bandmates) David (Barbe) and Malcolm (Travis), that was a real high point for me personally. It was great fun. I love those songs. A handful of them stayed in my set permanently over the past 20 years. But it was also just a case of being something I think people would enjoy. People love that record. That’s a good reason to do it right there. With all the difficult projects I’ve put out, the more selfish projects, this one was easy and unselfish.”
On the prospect of Hüsker Dü’s albums seeing similar treatment: “The three of us all have the same representation now. I’m cautiously optimistic that business may move forward at some point. I don’t think any of the personalities have changed much, the three people in the band and how we feel about each other. You know the three personalities of everyone involved, so you know that it’s very much working in baby steps.”
On the 1994 “Live at First Avenue” recording, newly packaged with Sugar’s second album: “It’s a good document of the end days of Sugar, because we did that U.S. tour, went over to Japan in early ‘95 for five or six shows, and that was it.”
On performing at Minneapolis’ First Ave nowadays: “It still sort of hurts. There’s so much history. I always perceive a greater expectation when I’m there, because I have such a history there. Every time I load into that room, I have a lot of emotions come up, because that’s really where I grew up. That’s where I learned how to do what I do, in the Entry and First Ave.”
On Minnesota’s proposed amendment to ban gay marriage: “Once it’s legal everywhere for gay people to marry, it’s going to seem like such a non-issue. We’ll think, ‘What was the debate about?’ But let’s not be complacent about it now. You can’t assume that everyone is OK with it. Go to your parents or whoever and explain it, that there are good people who won’t have the same basic rights as other U.S. citizens because of this.”