Between penning an autobiography (See a Little Light: The Trail of Rage and Melody) and churning out two refreshingly raucous albums within the past four years, alternative rock legend Bob Mould has been keeping himself relentlessly busy. Released earlier this summer, his latest album, Beauty and Ruin, throbs and glistens with soundscapes that undeniably hearken back to the sound Mould was creating with Husker Du bandmates Grant Hart and Greg Norton in the '80s.
"A lot of things in the past three to four years have led me down this path," Mould says of returning to the sound that inspired so many young musicians in the mid-'80s to pick up a guitar and take a stab at making their own rock 'n' roll. "With writing the autobiography with help from Michael Azerrad, talking in some depth about my past with Husker Du and Sugar, and the solo records and letting people get a closer look at my work and my life, maybe I'm a little bit more at ease with who I am."
Mould said that getting a call to contribute to the Foo Fighter's 2011 album Wasting Light and subsequently playing a number of shows with Dave Grohl & Co. left him "reinvigorated," excited to thrash out loud pop songs in the manner he once did many years ago. Paired with his experience witnessing the likes of Craig Finn, Ryan Adams, Britt Daniel and others take on his songbook at a November 2011 tribute show at the Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, Mould expressed that he felt moved to reexamine much of his work.
In 2012 Mould released Silver Age, working with bassist Jason Narducy and drummer Jon Wurster of Superchunk to hone a record jam-packed with tunes sounding akin to his earliest discography.
"I think all [of what happened in 2011] is a lot of what got me back to the loud, three-piece guitar rock thing with Silver Age, which was really fun," Mould says. "With Beauty and Ruin it's a similar approach in some ways, but I think that Beauty and Ruin is a deeper record and it's a little more expansive. The subject matter is a lot more personal. Silver Age was a little bit more of a party, and with this record, there are a lot of things to think about, but you can also take it as a rock record too."
Mould says that working with Narducy and Wurster has been a rewarding experience, something that he feels listeners can really hear on Beauty and Ruin.
"The communication between the three of us and just the trust that I have in those guys to help me shine those songs up, I think we really play well together at this point," he says.
"The three of us went to Chicago to make this record at Steve Albini's Electrical Audio, and we spent about 10 days in a room learning and recording these songs," Mould says. "It was reminiscent of how I used to make records in the '80s, really trying to be in the room, and the three of us being in very close contact."
The album is deeply intimate, dealing with central themes of loss, reflection, acceptance and the future, all largely stemming from the death of Mould's father. Although Mould said that the album's title is in some ways a result of simply enjoying the way "beauty" and "ruin" flow together, it also has to do with the overall place that the piece has in his discography.
"The record is a study in contrast in some ways, between beauty and ruin; even with the packaging, the gray and the yellow. I've lived in San Francisco for years now, and we have a lot of gray days and a lot of sunny days. On the surface, it's that simple."
Now that the record is out and the tour is well under way, Mould says that he's looking forward to performing at the Beachland Ballroom, a venue that he hit on the "Silver Age" tour several years back.
"We played at the Beachland Ballroom about a year and half ago, and it was one of the best shows we had on the Silver Age tour," Mould says, mentioning that he'd be hitting the gym directly after our interview to get in some good old-fashioned cardio. "I'm 53 years old and we take touring pretty seriously. The shows are very loud and physical and energetic, and at this point in my life it takes a lot of work to get ready."
Throughout the next couple of months Mould and his band will be playing all over the United States, a tour that will bleed into Europe starting in November. There's a lot of work to be done, but Mould says he's enjoying every minute of it.
"I wake up in the morning and I make music," he says. "I like to share it with people, and I think I'm good at it. I'm an interesting storyteller, and pretty grateful to have such a great band right now."
Bob Mould, Cymbals Eat Guitars
8 p.m. Monday, Sept. 15, Beachland Ballroom, 15711 Waterloo Rd., 216-383-1124. Tickets: $20, beachlandballroom.com.
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