listening to bob mould in the age of music abundance

Image source:

I’m feeling really nostalgic lately, maybe it’s because the Pixies have reunited, or the launch of muxtape, or that I’ve been catching up with friends from high school and college in Facebook, and then of course, was my roadtrip to Pittsburgh (where I spent my college years.)

For all the reasons above, I’ve been recently listening to my catalogue of Bob Mould and his 90s band Sugar: Workbook, Cooper Blue, and File Under Easy Listening. This prompted me to look into Mould more recent recordings. I had heard that he was went electronic (which is sort of true) and had been meaning to check him out again for a while. So, I finally got his most recent record, District Lines. (Ok, when I say “got,” I mean I bought the mp3s on

Music was such a huge part of my past especially in my college and post-college years, that there is a distinct soundtrack that I can hinge to parts of my life. If bands are brands as Grant McCracken recently and brand formulates our identities as Rob Walker suggests, then we are what we listen to. However in revisiting this albums, what’s changed over the years, isn’t just what we listen to that is most striking, but *how* we listen to it.

I played it a few times from start to finish. In the age of mp3 downloading and streaming (even the legal ones on myspace or band sites,) who still gives an album three or four full listens just to see if they can get into it? More often than not, I jump from site to site, checking out singles, which often do not even get a full play. Tracks that I immediately like get frequent (sometimes even obsessive plays) for a week before I move on the next ones, most other get are quickly forgotten. The music listening experience is akin to Galactus, the devourer of planets from Marvel Comics, who descends upon a planet to suck all life from it, before it moves on to the next one.

District Lines was a return not only to a musician I’ve admired for years, but also a return to a way of listening to music. I love how Mould uses the traditional album structure, built around tracks 1 and 4. Track 1 “Stupid Now” opens on the quiet side, not unlike “Sunspot” of his solo album, Workbook. But then, the song shifts into great power pop, with melodies layered underneath the noisy guitars that fans expect from Mould. Track 4 is the *hit* track. In this case, “Old Highs, New Lows” shows the electronic influence of DJing at Blowoff, his DC-based party, and is, for me, as least, the biggest track on the album. From his involvement in the electronic scene, Mould started adding electronic elements to his records, like Modulate (which I haven’t bought, but it is now somewhere up on the list,) which confused critics and die-hard rock fans. Maybe he was getting used to the form, or his listeners needed to get used to his new direction. Many people have noted for years, that labels don’t have the patience to nature a musician to develop a sound over a few albums. However, I’m not sure audiences have the patience today either. But it is great to be able to trace the progression of a career over 20 years, plus he blogs.

This entry was posted in culture, information, innovation. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to listening to bob mould in the age of music abundance

  1. Perhaps there is a movement afoot to return to the old style of music listening: PSFK is reporting a return to vinyl

  2. Ray says:

    Yes, that is an interesting phenomenon, but I am not sure how big of a trend this is. I’m nostalgic for the look and feel of vinyl (and also of course the bigger cover art,) but must admit that CDs are much more durable and convenient medium for me… but I guess we’ll find out.

  3. What I’d like to see (maybe I’m just missing it) is something more than just a digital song download, but not as much as a album.

    I would like to get the artwork, liner notes, etc. in a format that could be held in my mp3 player, or even printed out if I so chose.

    Do any artists do that?

  4. Ray says:

    I miss liner notes and album art too.

    U2 and iTunes experimented with a PDF liner notes for their “digital box set.”

    In the past various companies have tried to push “digital liner notes” but none have really stuck.

    As for album art, Cover Flow take a crack at the reviving artwork, and did ever see the digital jewel box?

    Maybe a solution will come, but it is going to have to get buy in from artists, seller, music players, and listeners. With the current state of the recording industry, I have no idea where things will land.

Comments are closed.