“Someone joked that ‘Body of Song’ is two parts ‘Copper Blue,’ two parts ‘Workbook,’ a part ‘Beaster,’ and a part ‘Modulate,’” said Mould in his notes, referring to past albums. The joke rings true. The album opens with beautiful piano chords like an old Tori Amos tune, then gets grotty, with guitar and drums.
“I lost my one in a million,” sings Mould, reaching a chorus that sounds like that old Turtles song, “Happy Together.” “Time goes by-yi-yi,” Mould sings as the song ends.
This new sound is followed by “(Shine Your) Light Love Hope,” reminiscent of Hüsker Dü, with a dash of Smashing Pumpkins. The fast emo rock meshes with heavy guitars, drums, and synthesizers. “Paralyzed” drives this even further back, the music matching the lyrics, “I was stuck in a place I don’t remember/ was it Sunday or last November? /I feel paralyzed most every time you come around to meet me.” Mould starts bringing it back in “I Am Vision, I Am Sound.” The bouncy guitar and drum intro loads on the reverb with loads of yearning in the mix. “I will come to you if you say yes/ I will come today Give me something to believe in,” he pleads.
The best of the bunch is “Underneath Days,” which segues in from “Vision” with a heavy drum intro and evolves into a song that evokes the pivotal dramatic movie scene when the underdog is about to show up the tough guys—imagine Ralph Macchio in “Karate Kid” practicing his flying front kicks on a deserted beach. Ditto for “High Fidelity,” which has a real acoustic but plugged-in sound, heavy on the emo rock, like the song a record store clerk would choose for his true love mix tape. Mould croons, almost saccharinely, “I’m the only person living who gets no fruit off the tree/ who could live with me in high fidelity?” Cool Christmas carol singsong chimes here are redeeming, especially with the distorted keyboard work.
There is also some very interesting keyboard and guitar work in “Always Tomorrow,” proof that Mould is indeed advancing with his work. The drums plunder forward like the infantry on the move, guitars playing in breakneck accompaniment.
The track titled “Days of Rain” is a sad song about a fragile, one-sided love, with Mould singing, “I want to be with you, but if you want me to I’ll disappear.” The album loses some steam with “Gauze of Friendship,” which misses its mark despite earnest rock and roll and a piercing reverb chord. The final tune, “Beating Heart the Prize,” crams in loads of rolling guitars and drums, like a final get your ya-yas out. Lots of respect goes to Mould for admitting he stole the beginning of this tune from kid-rocker Avril Lavigne.
“Body of Song” is a strong, cohesive unit.
“Sonically, start to finish,” says Mould in his notes, it “sounds like an album is supposed to sound. Don’t ask me in this day and age why I bother, but I still do. I still think an album should read like a book.”
As a collection of individual tunes, however, this “Body” has a less-than-perfect physique. It will come to fans of Sugar and Hüsker Dü like an old flame, stirring up familiar and forgotten feelings. But for those not already wedded to Mould in his many incarnations, it may take some sweet talk before “Body of Song” has you enamored.
The Bob Mould Band performs at Irving Plaza October 5 at 8 p.m. as part of the “Body” tour. For tickets, call 212-777-1224.