Bob Mould has a fearsome reputation, and it’s little wonder considering his body of work boasts some of the most aggressive riffs ever put to wax. That’s been his constant, not only in his seminal band Husker Du and its successor, Sugar, but also throughout his own solo output, which, with few exceptions, have mostly proven not to be suitable for the faint of heart. And yet, despite an overtly aggressive and agitated MO, Mould’s consistently demonstrated he’s no one riff rocker. Digressions into dance music (as a professional deejay), mellower musings (his surprising solo debut Workbook), literature (courtesy of his excellent autobiography See a Little Light) and yes, even professional wrestling (seven months spent as a consultant) have helped dispel the notion he’s nothing more than the once and forever insurgent his early recordings suggested.
Okay, maybe the wrestling part doesn’t exactly prove that point. And so too, maybe his new album doesn’t either. Indeed, Patch the Sky is an intensely rocking yet sturdily melodic effort that brings back memories of Sugar, a group that successfully fused his early agitation with a sound that was decidedly more accessible than Husker Du ever aspired to be. Granted, there are plenty of bands that have followed that formula in Sugar’s wake — Green Day, Nirvana and Foo Fighters in particular. Indeed, were it not for the fact that Mould made took that numbing noisey route first, Patch The Sky could be considered by those less knowing as a sign Mould’s merely grabbing on to a trend. However, given the fact that he pioneered this approach, suffice it to say it’s simply further affirmation of a patented assertive style.
Indeed, that blueprint approach is replicated on nearly every track here, from the riff-ready opener “Voices in My Head” to the succession of songs that follow, “The End of Things,” “Hold On” and “You Say You” included. And while a song like “Losing Sleep” may slacken the pace, it does so in such a way it could barely be deemed a worthy respite. Longtime fans won’t be surprised by this stunning mix of fury and frenzy, and that’s one reason why this effort is almost certain to win their nods of approval. As for the uninitiated, the best advice is simply to buckle up, let go, and enjoy the ride.