4 out of 5 stars
Bob Mould is a veritable legend in alternative music circles. As a founding member and front man for the wildly influential ’80s post-hardcore outfit Hüsker Dü, Mould helped pave the way for almost all alt-rock that would follow. In addition, the Minneapolis trio helped to break industry barriers, becoming one of the first ’80s underground bands to sign a major label deal. His later band Sugar would achieve some moderate radio and MTV hits in the early ’90s with their blend of alternative pop. The 47-year-old Mould also had successful solo careers churning out rock records and creating electronic dance records as a DJ.
“District Line,” the second album of Mould’s “rock comeback,” so to speak, is something of a return-to-form record. He plays almost every instrument on this album, with the exception of cello on a few songs and drums, which are capably handled by former Fugazi drummer Brendan Canty. The guitar work is loud and bombastic in true Bob Mould fashion. But this isn’t a straightforward rock record as Mould incorporates bits of his entire career here, including several electronic flourishes, most notably on “Shelter Me.” But otherwise, his songwriting is just about as strong as it’s ever been and sonically this is his best album in years.
Key Tracks: “Silence Between Us,” “Very Temporary,” “Stupid Now”
3 out of 5 stars
After years of playing guitar, producing and serving as Ben Gibbard’s right-hand man in every suburban teen’s favorite group of reflective indie rockers, Death Cab for Cutie, Chris Walla finally stepped out of the shadows with his first solo effort. And, big surprise, in a lot of places it sounds a lot like Death Cab. But that’s not all bad as songs like “Sing Again” and “Our Plans, Collapsing” sound very much like they could have been Death Cab B-sides.
Where Walla really succeeds on this album is on some of the more up-tempo tracks, where he brings the guitars and the rock. “Geometry &c.” is one of those tracks and as it stands now is one of the best songs I’ve heard this year. On the production side of things, I’ve never been a fan of Walla’s work behind the controls in the past, as I always felt he had a tendency to fiddle with things too much. This time he seems to get it just right and the production helps bring the songs out the way they seemingly were intended to.
All in all, it’s a solid effort. A pleasant indie-pop album with just enough meat on it to separate it from his better-known outfit.
Key Tracks: “Geometry &c.,” “The Score,” “Our Plans, Collapsing”