Recordings

'Body of Song': A Wail of a CD With Local Flavor

"Body of Song" is nowhere near as cathartic as Bob Mould's early records. It even boasts a couple of love ballads. (By Jim Saah)
By Dave McKenna
Special to The Washington Post
Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Bob Mould, the influential former Hüsker Dü and Sugar guitarist and singer, will always be most closely linked with Minneapolis and that city's 1980s' left-of-the-dial rock scene. But he seemed quite the local boy at an Adams Morgan restaurant Sunday night at a gathering to introduce tunes from his new CD, "Body of Song."

Since quietly relocating to the District in 2002, amid a transformation that found him trading in his loud and legendary electric guitar for a DJ rig, Mould has become a man about town. He started hosting dance parties that featured his remixed versions of other artists' tunes; his Blowoff series has become a recurring attraction at the 9:30 club.

The new disc relies on the local scene. Fugazi drummer Brendan Canty and Garland of Hours cellist Amy Domingues sat in on the "Body" sessions. Mould recorded tracks at Inner Ear Studios with Don Zientara, who over the years has engineered pretty much every major release from Dischord, the area's label of record.

Musically, however, "Body" is all over the map, a sonic mashup of Mould's career stops. His dance patrons can focus on "(Shine Your) Light Love Hope," one of several tracks for which Mould's vocals are put through steroidal sound processing; the song has a lot more in common with Cher's "Believe" than longtime Mould obsessives would want. The club DJ stint also informs the mantra-heavy "I Am Vision I Am Sound." "Paralyzed," the first single, is as contemporary a blend of pop, rock and dance beats as a Kelly Clarkson smash.

Though he once touted his 1998 CD, "The Last Dog and Pony Show," as the last rock guitar record he'd ever make, "Body" finds Mould plugged in again. The power chords of "Missing You" and "Best Thing" recall Sugar's catchiest single, "Favorite Thing," and that's, well, a fine thing.

In Hüsker Dü, Mould delivered some of the greatest screams in rock history. He sounded pained even when singing lighter fare, as shown by the Hüskers' cover of the "Mary Tyler Moore Show" theme. But shrieking is a young man's game, and "Body" is nowhere near the cathartic torturefest that his early records were. Mould actually croons on earnest, low-key love ballads "Days of Rain" and "High Fidelity." But on the bitter "Underneath Days," he turns his larynx loose again. (Parental warning: The track has an unprintable refrain that all by itself should prevent Wal-Mart from stocking the record.)

Mould's wail at the end of "Circles" -- "bye-aye-aye-aye-aye!" -- should also earn nostalgic nods from those who never got over the demise of the band with the umlauts. The song's lyrics, meanwhile, will hit home with all locals, rockers and dancers alike. After a John Paul Jones-style keyboard drone, Mould sings, "I know that my vote doesn't count anymore." Welcome to Washington.


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