Bob Mould has enjoyed a career in three parts. The San Francisco based singer-songwriter emerged on the alternative scene in 1979 with seminal punk outfit Hüsker Du.
He then went on to launch a solo career with the bleakly acoustic Workbook before putting it on hold to found the relatively short-lived Sugar, a more melodic act that was aligned with grunge and with which he had his greatest commercial success.
These distinctions are neatly obliterated during tonight’s set, which is superficially to promote 11th solo album Beauty And Ruin, when he ploughs through over 20 cross-career tracks at breakneck speed and that bleed into a wall of noise. “It’s not loud enough?” he quizzes one audience member. “I find that hard to believe!”
The ear bleed of most people in the crowd, and the fact he blows an amp, could attest to this assertion. The volume seems to incrementally increase with every track played between opener ‘Flip Your Wig’ and set closer ‘Chartered Trips’ an hour later.
The volume is not just physical but also in emotional content, with his cathartic vocals shredding through the likes of ‘Little Glass Pill’ and current single ‘I Don’t Know You Anymore’.
These are tracks that point to Mould’s influence on the alternative college rock scene, with ‘Star Machine’ a progenitor to the Pixies’ aggression, ‘Hoover Dam’ the post-grunge melodic rock of Red Heaven era Throwing Muses, and ‘Kid With Crooked Face’ the coruscating noise-fest of Nirvana’s In Utero.
It’s an influence that’s tangentially shown in his backing band, with bassist Jason Narducy and drummer John Wurster being members of high-velocity punk band Superchunk. The former’s backing vocals add rare moments of melodic subtlety to the material, with his occasional high kicks some visual relief from Mould’s heads-down, buttoned-up playing.
In annihilating some of the melodic detailing in his work Mould risks underselling his song writing but, judging by the enthusiastic response he receives, it would appear that few in the sell-out crowd mind.
Gig date: November 14