By: Jason Herring, March 29 2016 —
Prolific singer-songwriter Bob Mould may be 55, but he still knows how to rock. The musician helped shape punk music as the frontman of influential bands Hüsker Dü and Sugar in the ‘80s and ‘90s. Mould has since released a slew of solo albums wildly fluctuating in quality. But his latest, Patch the Sky, is a strong addition to the musician’s discography.
Opener “Voices in My Head,” a cathartic power pop jam, serves as a mission statement for the album. Mould’s guitar work is exceptional, with a perfect balance of distortion and clarity. Tracks likethis call back to Hüsker Dü at their best, where layers of shredded guitars would conceal melodies that only revealed themselves after repeated listens.
The song also demonstrates the album’s pervading theme. Though most music on the album is exultant, Mould’s lyrics are sombre and morbid. “Daddy’s Favourite” and “Lucifer and God” both employ satanic imagery. Then, Mould contemplates the apocalypse on the frenetic “The End of Things.”
But, as is the case with most of his music, Mould’s voice is difficult to understand throughout the record. This doesn’t matter much — the best part of Mould’s vocals aren’t the words he sings, but the passion he sings them with.
Mould packs a lot of ideas into the sub-two-minute “Hands Are Tied.” It’s the album’s most fiery cut, teeming with guitar riffs and propelled by punk rock drums. But “Pray For Rain” is the album’s highlight, a charged-up pop–rock tune that’s among the best of Mould’s career.
There are no duds on Patch the Sky, though closer “Monument” feels like an underwhelming conclusion to the energetic album. It’s a subdued and contemplative track, but picks up steam as it reaches a climax and Mould’s voice gets lost behind a hazy wall of guitars.
It’s stunning that Mould is still making powerful and relevant music after over 35 years in the industry. Patch the Sky won’t have the same influence as his decades-old work, but it’s still a significant release from one of the genre’s pioneers.