Pop culture is a cruel mistress; the one uniting and unavoidable fact of life, that we all grow old, is precisely what our culture will not accept, forever worshipping the latest crop of young and pretty people at the expense of those previously worshipped, never mind those artists creating works of lasting quality. The internet has aggravated this already aggravating tendency, creating new categories of veneration (YouTuber, influencer, et al.) in which the generative talent seems mostly to do with an ability to capture attention in an age rife with attention deficits, and to do so most often in a way that older people can’t fathom and/or don’t care about. In a way it may be fitting that in this virtual age of ours the demand for an actual creative product is brushed aside for the pleasure of simply focusing on one evanescent screen moment for some uninterrupted amount of minutes (or seconds); in any case, youth worship is firmly reiterated in the process.
Bob Mould arrives on such a scene like a sudden gust of wind rearranging the porch furniture. The Hüsker Dü founder, now 58, has wandered his way through a varied career, intermittently touching base with the kind of blistering rock’n’roll for which his first band was known, other times venturing into more electronic enterprises. Here, with “Sunshine Rock,” guitars crash and ring, suspended chords suspend, a firm, stuttering beat establishes itself, and Mould comes at us with that yearning but muffled voice of his, a voice that forever sounds like it’s singing in an empty room with maybe one folding chair in it. The melody is clipped and snappy, with cascading resolutions in the verses and one or two spiffy chord changes in the chorus. It’s both hard-driving and friendly.
Now then, the title and the energetic pace suggest something optimistic, as do the strings that materialize most notably in an affirmative flourish at the end of the song. But the Bob Mould vibe is never entirely sunshine-y—even when he, by all accounts, thinks he’s being sunny (“I’m trying to keep things brighter these days as a way to stay alive,” Mould says in an accompanying press release, not the sunniest of sunny statements if you think about it). To my ears, however, to the extent that the lyrics are decipherable, “Sunshine Rock” presents as an “enjoy what you have while you have it because nothing lasts very long” kind of song, Mould singing more with fortitude than delight. In 2019, that passes for sunny.
“Sunshine Rock” is the title track from Mould’s forthcoming album, to be released next month on Merge Records. MP3 via the good folks at KEXP. This is the third time Mould has been featured here, but the first time since 2009; neither of his previous tracks are still available as free and legal downloads.