Music Review: With all of Mould's knobs at 10, there's nowhere to go
By Jim Sullivan, Globe Staff, 03/24/97
As Bob Mould took the stage Friday night at the sold-out Paradise, a voice cried out, "We love you Bob!" Another: "You rock my life!"
How do you respond to that?
If you're Mould, you're a trifle embarrassed, you futz around with your tunings for a bit, and respond with a self-deprecating ``I'll start with something I know.'' Which is ``Wishing Well.''
Mould may have been billed as a solo artist - with his name up alone on the marquee Friday - but he carried substantial baggage to the gig. Much of it good, some of it problematic.
Mould was the co-lead-singer/songwriter, and guitarist with the Minneapolis-based hardcore 'n' more band Husker Du of the mid-late '70s-early '80s; later, he was the primary voice of the post-punk band Sugar. Mould also carved out his own slice of the dark side of life on three solo albums, the latest, ``Bob Mould,'' on Rykodisc. Last fall, touring behind that record, he played Avalon with bassist Andrew Duplantis.
As a recording artist, Mould, now a full-time New Yorker, conjures up a wide, wild (if pessimistic, claustrophobic) world. There is a range of dynamics and emotions, a rock 'n' roll soundscape fleshed out by drums and bass, rhythmic waves. Mould operates in a modified attack mode - you certainly wouldn't want to be one of the people he feels has burned him in his past.
Friday night at the club, set up cabaret style (some folks had seats, others stood), Mould quickly staked his turf, his membership (deaconship?) in the church of the sonic blitz. Highly rhythmic, like Pete Townshend on speed without the reticence about decibel overload. (Townshend is a fan of Mould's and asked him to open his New York club shows last spring.)
Mould's is semi-melodious, cacophonic attack - via a highly amped acoustic 12-string guitar. There's a giddy appeal in that it's so monstrously over-the-top - Mould would send your average acoustic music fan flying to the exit doors and, here, even among the faithful, earplugs and hands-over-the- ears gestures were not uncommon. Mould has a curmudgeonly charm. ``It's been one of those nights,'' he griped, cryptically, early on. ``Kept me away longer from what I do.'' A better comment, later: ``Everybody thinks the kid on `King of the Hill' is me.'' (It's true! Watch the Fox cartoon sitcom with that in mind.)
The downside here - and we've said this about Mould solo and Sugar, too - is that the rush you feel at the beginning of the set tends to flatten out midway, because Mould's got everything cranked to 10. Volume, attitude, guitar frenzy. You feel like you're caught in his personal wind tunnel. Hence, what is specific on disc - with sharp angles and hairpin turns - tends to blur live.
Mould is certainly bursting with passion - you get the sense that the world makes more sense to him here than at any other time - but out in the crowd it feels like Generic Bob. Angst and anger join up for a steamroll of a time. A couple of new ones were trotted out: ``New No. 1'' (working title), about not trusting himself, and ``Vaporub,'' which actually had some subtle fingerpicking at the end. A few hits from yore were played (``Celebrated Summer,'' ``If I Can't Change Your Mind''). At the end, he said he might have drunk too much coffee that day, said he almost liked the recent Stone Temple Pilots record, and dissed U2.
This story ran on page c7 of the Boston Globe on 03/24/97.