I have fallen in love with Bob Mould again. I had the amazing opportunity of seeing Hüsker Dü as a teenager on their final tour and Mould's first two solo albums have a lot of outstanding songs, but for me it wasn't until Copper Blue that I became more in touch with his music. Twenty years ago, Mould was able to thread a collection of great songs into something much more magnificent. With Silver Age, he has finally, for me at least, been able to do this again.
I have always admired Bob Mould as an incredible songwriter and player, singing straight from his bleeding heart, pulling no punches. Each album since the demise of Sugar—yes, this is 18 years in a row—seems like an experimental new direction. Bob got tired of the "rock" thing and made the eponymous hubcap album, got tired of the "rock" thing again and vowed to stop playing loud after The Last Dog and Pony Show. After discovering techno and loading albums with too much material, he found a vocoder, making his last release, Life and Times, almost completely unlistenable.
With the 20th anniversary of Copper Blue, perhaps he has rediscovered how much a simple and direct rock record with a lot of guts, hooks and melodies, threaded together with appropriate transitions works masterfully. He did do it before, so it's not as if he can be accused of ripping himself off. Silver Age is once again an extremely personal statement, as almost all of his songs are presented with the angst of a vicious rocker in the prime of his life, even though, at 50, Bob enters his own silver age.
It is impossible to avoid comparison to Copper Blue, as it follows the exact same trajectory: open with a slow, but driving introduction—"Star Machine" provides an "Act We Act" type intro—before launching into a sequence of three prime-time-ready hit single types, reaching cilmax in the middle—"The Descent," a "Changes"-caliber gem—and coming down to close side one on a slow, but majestic loud masterpiece. "Stream of Hercules" probably won't find as many worshippers as "Hoover Dam," but it sure is a fine contender.
Side B once again isn't as much of a hit factory. For me, the second half gets progressively better, with the last two songs leaving the largest impressions. It's no surprise that a song bearing the title of "Keep Believing" is probably the song most reminiscent of Hüsker Dü that Mould has possibly ever made in his career since. Closer "First Time Joy" has a cadence like a memorable final sequence in a tense but enjoyable film and over the few months of listening to this album, it has been strong enough to make me start again from the beginning numerous times.
Silver Age has not worn thin on me in the last since I first got it, and it has most definitely earned my admiration as one of my top albums of the year. What I do miss is having the physical album, looking at the lyric sheet, but that's probably more of a time issue than an actual physical product issue. (The most time I spend with these days is spent commuting, rather than attentive at home or out in the live scene.) I would like to feel as intimate with the album as I have been with many of Mould's other records. With that in mind, it's almost a disservice writing this review before I have truly soaked it in as much as I want to. This will take some more time, however, but it will at least be an enjoyable time.