By DAN MACINTOSH
Bob Mould’s new Sunshine Rock album has been described as one of the former Husker Du leader’s happier projects. However, the thought of Mould singing wall-to-wall happy music is something like picturing Dick Cheney doing standup comedy. Maybe he’ll go through with it, but he’ll be gritting his teeth all the way.
Two of these track names even include the word ‘sunshine,’ the title track and “Camp Sunshine.” The former is one of those typical surging guitar Mould numbers. He doesn’t sing it with his patented Sam Kinison-esque vocal howl, as he vocalizes about cool breezes, heartbeats pounding, and candy. Mould hasn’t gone all soft on us, though; it just reads that way.
“Camp Sunshine” is sung gently (yes, gently) over an acoustic guitar. He may be writing about children, but in between the lines he’s actually talking about the music business life. He mostly relishing in the days he’s allowed to create music. Within the track’s light sonic textures, however, there are more than a few dark words. “I think of the kids we used to see/Some get sick and pass away.” It’s impossible not to think of Husker Du’s drummer Grant Hart, though, when Mould mentions friends passing away. Hart left this world in 2017 due to complications from liver cancer and Hepatitis C.
“Thirty Dozen Roses” sounds more like the regular Bob Mould. On it, he’s the spurned thorn in a relationship where even thirty dozen roses cannot heal the damage done. He sounds angry and hurt as he shouts/sings over a punkish guitar rock groove. “I Fought” is also a hard rocking, garbled vocal number and a lot of what we so love about Mould.
On a track that sure sounds like the more quietly moody music Husker Du so starkly contrasted with during the 80s, “Lost Faith” flows with a desperation more associated with doom and gloom acts like Depeche Mode. “I’ve lost faith in everything/Everything, everything,” Mould moans. Later he muses, “When you stray from the ones who love you/It gets so hard to find your way back home.” It’s a really dark collection of lines, without even the hint of sunshine.
Okay, Bob Mould will never be anybody’s choice for Sunshine Superman, and Sunshine Rock won’t alter that first impression. Whether he’s a weatherman reporting sunny and 75, or forecasting nearly endless showers, Mould is always ever truthful. This means Sunshine Rock is pretty much great in any weather.