As the singer-guitarist for Husker Du and Sugar, Bob Mould played a crucial role in pioneering hardcore, speed-metal and grunge. Perhaps more notable, however, is Mould's gift for chronicling modern romance. His greatest album, Sugar's 1994 "File Under: Easy Listening," was a contagiously giddy celebration of new love. His new, terrific solo album, "Life and Times," takes the opposite tack, exploring the sourness of love gone wrong.
Setting aside his recent fascination with DJ culture, Mould returns to the guitar-dominated approach of his best-known music. Playing all the instruments but the drums (played by Jon Wurster), Mould mixes slow, quiet songs with fast, noisy numbers, but always finds a way to marry a catchy melody to a definite rhythm.
When he describes himself as a youngster hanging out by the basement bathroom of a gay bar called Argos, the relentless push of the punk-rock seems to be steeling his nerves for whatever happens next. The next song, "Bad Blood Better," describes a Sunday morning when he realizes that a relationship must end, and Mould uses deliberate, elegant string samples to mourn the love that has already died.
When he describes leaving innocence and adolescence behind on "MM 17," he uses "mile marker 17" as one metaphor and the sound of an acoustic guitar overwhelmed by an electric guitar as another. The album's best song, "I'm Sorry, Baby, but You Can't Stand in My Light Any More," is another elegy for broken love. Amid the ringing chimes of acoustic guitars, the lovely, aching melody begins with accusations but then, in a dramatic turnabout, ends with confessions and apologies.
-- Geoffrey Himes, Weekend (April 2009)