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BOB MOULD – Glasgow ABC, 26-01-06

Posted: January 28th, 2006, by Alex McChesney

In the case of most gigs I go to, I do so because I’m genuinely interested or excited by the music. There are a handful of bands, however, whose shows I attend more out of a sense of duty than anything else. These are generally artists who were extremely important to me when I was much younger, but who don’t play locally too often. While I might not actually listen to their records much any more, it would seem wrong to let them pass through Glasgow without making an appearance, for old time’s sake.

Bob Mould is one such artist. I was too young to be into Husker Du (And no, I can’t be bothered scanning the character map for a “u” with umlauts. You may draw them in yourself, if you wish.) while they were still a going concern, but the brief NME-lead hyping of Mould’s subsequent outfit Sugar provided a gateway to his back-catalogue which, as an angsty teenager, I devoured keenly.

My tastes have moved on, as tastes tend to do, and I didn’t really bother with his last couple of solo albums, so I wasn’t expecting to know too much of the set last night. It was surprising, then, that it was largely made up of older material. Lots of old Huskers songs (“Hardly Getting Over It”, “Chartered Trips” and “Celebrated Summer” being particular highlights), and a large pile from the first few solo records and his Sugar output comprised the bulk of it. In the end I counted only two that I didn’t know, despite not having purchased a Bob Mould album in years. One has to wonder if this indicates a lack of confidence in his newer work, or simply an acceptance that his audience largely consists of aging Huskers fans. His recent electronic sideline warranted not even a mention, despite the fact that the format of this tour – just Bob on his own – might have been the perfect opportunity to bring both facets of his output together without having to dismiss a band from the stage when it came time to do some laptop-twiddling.

For nostalgists, then, this gig is about as perfect as could be expected without the Huskers getting back together and the associated freezing-over of hell. (Though a recent charity appearance with Grant Hart suggests that hatchets may have been buried in that area.) The songs, and Bob’s voice, have both aged well, and his performance is a pleasing reminder that he is a songwriter who can endow his lyrics with a rare sense of originality and honesty, even while allowing himself a relatively narrow thematic palette. It’s incredible how many songs the man can write about relationships going wrong, without sounding like a one-trick pony. But I can’t quite decide whether to be disappointed that someone who tried so hard in recent years to reinvent himself seems to be so dependant on his past in order to keep an audience, or to take it as a sign that he’s more at peace with his own history and be happy for him. It’s possible that this tour is just one step in a larger game-plan – a clever reclaiming of goodwill after a long absence. So while this was a night of retrospection, for the first time in years I’m curious about what Bob Mould will do next.

Alex McChesney

Alex was brought up by a family of stupid looking monkeys after being lost in the deep jungles of Paisley. Teaching him all their secret conga skills (as well as how to throw barrels at plumbers), Alex was able to leave for the bright lights of Glasgow where adventure struck him and he needed all his conga skills to save the world and earn the hand of a lovely Texan princess. He now keeps a low profile alphabeticising his record collection and making sock monkeys in the likenesses of his long lost family.


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