Bob Mould – “Beauty & Ruin” – A Track-by-Track Review
With the new album, Beauty & Ruin is split between 12 tracks, it’s good to think of this record in sides, as in side 1: the beautiful, punk side with heartbreaking lyrics synched with catchy guitar hooks and melodies, and side 2: The hard-core-rocking conclusion that sums up the album, going from sadness on the first track “Low Season” all the way through a war with oneself and others “The War”, and then through the track “Forgiveness” in which the narrator forgives those people, things, and thoughts that may have harmed him in the past. The album flows on through, declaring reconciliation throughout “Let the Beauty Be” and that closing off with the track “Fix It” in which the listener should do just that, for life’s struggles are nothing to procrastinate over.
“Low Season“ The first track to the follow up of The Silver Age starts with the leaking of a faucet, almost akin to what Mould was probably feeling when writing this track, in which he recently lost his father while writing the track and lyrics. Clocking in at 4:10 minutes, it’s a heavy rocker. As the track progresses, the listener is not opposed to feelings of dread or despair. With lyrics like “Chances that I’ve wasted in my unforgiving days, You were always there, to hear my spirit drown.” as well as being the opening track to Beauty & Ruin, it’s a sludgy-rock opener that is reminiscent of last year’s release of a demo of “Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle” from Nirvana’s Deluxe 20th Anniversary Reissue of In Utero. The lyrics are reminiscent of that of someone whom want’s out of either a defining bad pinnacle within their life, or as well as someone whom brought the narrator/ singer within the song down throughout the course of their life, but are now finally coming to terms with this and kicking this pain in the ass.
The next track is “Little Glass Pill” and clocking in at 3:41 with a jangly- riff that starts off the song, Mould still proves that underneath the fast punk leanings and hard-core styling’s of this track, the melody proves to be the hook from this guitar-based rocker. The narrator throughout the song sings about denial, particularly losing someone you really love, in which this song could be a metaphor regarding his father’s death, not unknown at the time, but still a very tragic loss in which Mould’s feelings of loss, sadness, and losing one’s own hero are clearly portrayed.
The next track, “I Don’t Know You Anymore” which clocks in at 3:58 is a fast catchy rocker, about not knowing someone you used to know. As Bob stated in an interview with Stereogum, it will be the “first proper single from the album.” This track really catches the listeners’ attention about alienation from a lost friend, or enemy.
The next track, “Kid with Crooked Face” is another Hard-core punk song. Mould has certainly never lost his roots in the underground punk scene which he left when pursuing his first solo album and again this second time around with Beauty & Ruin. This track features heavy hitting drums, akin to sounding like something Dave Grohl would be drumming on.
Continuing on, the song “Nemeses Are Laughing” starts off with a jazz- swing style with Moulds vocals “do-do-do- doo, do-do, do “, then launches into a raunchy guitar riff attack with Wurchester’s drums leading the song. Another song regarding one’s enemies, in which Mould gets the last laugh.
Speaking in sides, like a vinyl album, “The War” closes up Side 1 of Beauty & Ruin. It is a mid-tempo rocker with guitar leading in, joined by drums, catchy hooks underneath. Within “The War” the narrator instructs the listener to hear their own voice, in which is the only weapon said narrator chooses to use against “The War”. Clocking in at 4:43 minutes, it’s a fast tempo rocker like the rest of the album, with only one short section of verse spoken by Mould at the ending of the track.
“Forgiveness” – This track opens up Side 2 of the album and could be seen, interpretively as the aftermath of the previous track. The drums lead in this track, with a syncopated guitar intro, in which Mould’s lyrics then are introduced. A mid-tempo rocker, which includes a piano riff
After that, here comes, “Hey Mr. Grey” in which could be portrayed by the listener as a self-reflection of Mould’s life, or the listener’s life in general, about the new generation of “hard-core rockers” whom presume to think, because of “grey hair” they cannot rock out. A stellar rocking track from Bob Mould, in which his Husker-Du styling and fast/punk dynamics are shown in this track which, is 2:06 minutes long.
Up next is “Fire in the City” – a fast-tempo upbeat rocker that clocks in at 3:16. The song speaks of the troubles within, but also defers these troubles by reconciliation, and is trying to shine a new light on life, to look up and see the future for what it is.
What follows is “Tomorrow Morning“, another fast-tempo hard-core rocker in which the narrator, presumably Mould, proclaims that “Tomorrow Morning” will be a better day, as well as life in general. The song is an addendum to the previous in which Mould is looking for a better, more meaningful reconciliation after the grief and loss of someone close to them.
“Let the Beauty Be” – this track starts out acoustically, some reverb and Mould’s voice as the only accompaniment. The slowest song on the album, and for good reason. After listening to the previous tracks, all of which are hard rocking, tracks, it’s nice to hear Mould speaking directly to the listener about letting the beauty be, and when he sings that, he means just that. Live life and be happy and free. With a backing band that joins in at the 1:35 mark, we can clearly still distinguish the acoustic guitar and hear Mould’s voice clearly throughout the track, something in which most other tracks lack, although was also something purposeful on Mould’s part when compiling the album.
“Fix It” closes the album, and brings the listener back to the rough, hard-core styling that Mould is more commonly known for. Although the music may be hard-core, the message is clear- whatever problems you’re facing in life, it is better to fix them than to be at war with oneself or another.
Throughout the album, because of Mould’s current lineup, hearing this record really solidifies how a great power-trio can pack their punches. Wurster’s drumming is akin to Grohl’s drumming on Nevermind and Jimmy Chamberlain’s drumming on “Cherub Rock” from Siamese Dream. Listening to the powerful velocity of the drumming on the record, it was as if Wurster was firing a cannon 1 metre away from your ears.
The musicianship throughout the album really gives off a nostalgic feeling that this is Sugar performing on this album, but also gives it a fresh new insight into both Bob’s world as well as the world around himself.
With a core lineup which includes bombastic drumming on par with Dave Grohl and Jon Bonham, as well as a great vocal performance by Mould, in which many hints of early influences in his younger years come back for a visit, it is a great record for both young and older of Bob Mould who will enjoy this very much.
The album cover (yes, I’m commenting on that too.), is a very realistic representation of turmoil, grief, and greyness that Mould must have been feeling at the time of writing such a passionate, intricate, yet hard-rocking record. The time-lapse of the cover, in which it portrays a young Bob Mould having a cigarette, and then this era’s Bob next to him, clearly portrays the changes he went through both recording this album, as well as the other 11 solo albums he has made throughout his career (not including the Husker-Du albums in his teenage-angst-ridden years.)
The lyrics, like most of Mould’s work are straight and to the point, and as he stated in an interview, some songs, like “Fix It” did not have lyrics until the mixing session of the album. As with most of the albums he has written, the lyrics definitely speak for themselves. Bob Mould still has it, after 30+ years.
Overall rating for this album: 7/ 10, and 3.5/5 Stars
Bob Mould’s new album, Beauty & Ruin is out June 3rd 2014, via Merge Records.