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CD of The Week

Week of 10/05/20

    Bob Mould - Blue Hearts (Merge)

    Bob Mould was sent here to save us! Well, maybe not, but his music is often a source of salvation and catharsis. On his 14th solo album Blue Hearts, Bob blisters through 14 raw tracks that highlight his frustration with our current state of affairs. "American Crisis" could be the ultimate anthem of 2020 and sees him at his angriest in quite some time, literally screaming about how history seems doomed to repeat itself; like how the AIDS crisis being ignored in the 80s could retrospectively be compared to the current downplaying of Covid-19. And that's just in one verse. It may be the greatest protest songs ever written, or at least the one we need right now. This and many of the other tracks on Blue Hearts conjures up his previous work with Hüsker Dü and all but abandons the lighter tone of his 2019 album Sunshine Rock, disemboweling subjects like climate, government, and religion with ferocity, dark wit, and just a shimmer of hope.

    The veritable amplitude of Bob and his backing band (Jason Narducy on bass and Jon Wurster on drums) occasionally stifle the vocals in the mix, but the sense of urgency is never lost. On album opener "Heart On My Sleeve" and the beautiful closer "The Ocean," he slows the tempo, but not the intensity. "Forecast of Rain" would have fit nicely on a Sugar album and skewers evangelicals for propping up political leaders who blatantly disregard the values they fervently uphold. "Siberian Butterfly," finds Bob recalling how he overcame self-hatred during his sexual identity journey. It's one of the best tracks on the album.

    The album was recorded in Chicago at Steve Albini's Electrical Audio and Bob likens the experience of writing and recording this album to the 1983 Husker Du album Zen Arcade, where he and bandmate Grant Hart tackled the prejudices and socio-economic disparities of the Reagan years. Clocking in at just over 35 minutes, Blue Hearts is your parents' punk music and your grandparents' protest music all rolled up in to one breathless rollercoaster ride through Bob Mould's American crisis.

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    Review by Dave Lindquist

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