The timing of Bob Mould’s Life And Times is no coincidence: Twenty years ago this month, Mould released his seminal solo debut, Workbook. The world knew him from the decidedly loud, angsty Hüsker Dü, but Workbook showed he could excel as a quieter, more contemplative singer-songwriter.
While Mould still has the ability to surprise listeners—like going electro-rock on 2002’s Modulate—a Workbook-like reinvention only happens once in a career. Life And Times arrives on Workbook’s anniversary, but it continues down the path established by 2005’s Body Of Song, Mould’s return-to-basics rock album after Modulate. Like last year’s District Line, Life And Times opens forcefully, with a mid-tempo stomper where Mould sings, “What the fuck, what kicked up all this dust?”
Life And Times kicks up plenty of it. “Argos” closes out the album’s first half with a fast tempo and a barrage of relentless guitars, making it sound like the lost Sugar B-side each of Mould’s records seems to have. They also have at least one miserablist song, though Mould doesn’t wallow much on Life And Times—“Bad Blood Better” balances its bad vibes with nice oomph. He also leaves out the more conspicuous electronic flourishes of his post-Modulate work, which ought to please longtime fans. Actually, all of Life And Times should, as Mould seems to be slowly reverting to the sounds of Sugar’s heyday.