Mouldiana (5)

By: James Parker
June 17, 2011


Fifth in a series of posts, coauthored by James Parker and Tommy Valicenti, singer/guitarist with the Boston rock band Mount Peru, parsing the solos of Bob Mould. Series intro here.

From District Line.

2008: District Line. No longer tortuously partnered, no longer trapped-sounding, rageful, Bob is a swinging gay man, a happy bear, out and about and digging his senior rock status. Is this record as good as Zen Arcade? Er, no. But things change, dammit, Bobs change, and “Who Needs To Dream?” is a pearl of grown-up-ness, proudly sharing its title with a ballad from Barry Manilow’s Copacabana. Yes, it choogles tastefully along and conspicuously fails to blow holes in your brainpan. Yes, we’re damning it with faint praise. But listen if you can, you leather-ear’d punk rocker, to how lovely it is: effortless, resigned vocals, half-asleep melody, and a solo… Well, we’ll get to the solo. Before that, let us note that while Sugar’s Malcolm Travis played the drums like he was hammering fenceposts, here Brendan Canty (ex-Fugazi) lopes easily across the Bob-strum, lending a looseness latterly absent. (Alliteration.) Also: Bob’s been DJing at the clubs, and for all the plainness of its groove there’s a kind of dancefloor drift to this number, a non-rock suspension.

We chose this solo to close our series because it is an outrage of mellowness. While still being Bob. It’s the “Tilted” solo played by Lindsey Buckingham, essentially: layering, harmonic overdrive, a distant gnawing of sitars, but aimed at sweetness rather than chaos. Cosmic Byrdsian ripples, enhanced by synth. End of the road for MOULDIANA: through suffering and screaming amps we have travelled, through tiltings and regression, to this spangled lucidity. Drink it in.


Co-written by Tommy Valicenti. Parker and Valicenti also collaborated on the series ANGUSONICS, which parsed the solos of AC/DC’s Angus Young.


READ other HiLobrow series: ANGUSONICS — the solos of Angus Young | ARTIST IN RESIDENCE — HILOBROW’s favorite artists | BICYCLE KICK | THE BOOK IS A WEAPON — a gallery | CABLEGATE COMIX | CECI EST UNE PIPE — a gallery | CHESS MATCH — a gallery | DE CONDIMENTIS — a world-secret-historical take on ketchup, mustard, relish, and more | DIPLOMACY — a world-conquest boardgame musical | DOTS AND DASHES — a gallery | DOUBLE EXPOSURE — the stratagems of Middlebrow | EGGHEAD — a gallery | EPIC WINS — our versions of epic poems | FILE X — a gallery | FITTING SHOES — famous literary footwear | GOUDOU GOUDOU — adventures in Haiti | KIRB YOUR ENTHUSIASM — 25 Jack Kirby panels | LATF HIPSTER | MERIT BADGES — earn ’em! | MOULDIANA — the solos of Bob Mould | PANTENE MEME — a found gallery | PHRENOLOGY — the insane origin of browism | PLUPERFECT PDA — time-traveling smartphones! | POP ARCANA — spelunking weird culture | REBOOTING MUSEUMS | ROPE-A-DOPE — boxing | SECRET PANEL —Silver Age comics’ double entendres | SHOCKING BLOCKING — cinematic blocking | SKRULLICISM | UKULELE HEROES


Pop Music, Read-outs

What do you think?

  1. Hmmmm… first, however, let me thank both James and Tommy for a terrific series. Musicians should, sometimes at least, be treated as… musicians and not only as cultural/emotional totems.

    As for happy bear, dancing bear… the solo is the only thing here I can DIG, the rest somewhere between rote proto-emo Bob and uh, I dunno R.E.M. after a colon quaking Mexican dinner?

    I’m not sure what the alternative is. Emotion is Bob’s thing, words per se aren’t his strength… And ** tone ** is Bob’s thing, rhythmic suppleness– besides his own fevered strum– ain’t his strength either.

    Was there anything of merit in the electronic music?


    * Neil Young
    * Ramones
    maybe Tom Verlaine? I’d be curious to hear ‘defense’ of the solo works + later TV
    * maybe Echo & The Bunnymen? PiL catalog too small, Clash were never a band that mattered
    * The Fall, tho’ they’ve had 234 guitarists at last count
    * Black Flag + later Greg Ginn

  2. thanks for being here, caz, you charming contrarian, and thanks for the suggestions. we already have our next series lined up: stand by (in september) for BOLANOMICS.

  3. Caz, run don’t walk to the bookstore and buy James’s Henry Rollins book TURNED ON. Published in the US in 2000 with the following blurb from yours truly: “A compassionate, lyrical tribute to some of the most savage music ever produced…. Turned On is a modern Pilgrim’s Progress.”

  4. I second Caz’s call for deep analysis of the Fall — even with its excessive bounty of guitar players.

    By the way Caz, do you ever write under the name “Brian Berger”? I’m feeling some lyrical resonance.

  5. i too feel touched by the hand of berger in these posts from caz. are you and brian confreres, caz? bowling buddies perhaps?

    can’t speak for tommy, but i think the fall are beyond me. they blew my socks off when i saw them live circa 1988 – ‘this nation’s saving grace’, BIG and very LOUD – but i don’t *really* understand them. i may be too posh.

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