The new Bob Mould album, Sunshine Rock, out on Friday from Merge Records, is a remarkable thing. It is, quite simply, the sort of record fans of Mould have been waiting for since at least the Sugar days, if not the Husker Du ones. Full of invigorating, bright numbers, the release might very well be my favorite solo album from the man so far.
Lead track "Sunshine Rock" roars out of the gate on a wave of exhilaration that's positively infectious. Not since maybe "Australia" by Manic Street Preachers have I heard a single with this sort of genuine and transformative immediacy. Similarly, "Sunny Love Song" and "Send Me A Postcard" marry the force of Husker Du classics with the big hooks of some of those Sugar hits. Mould is helped in cranking out this sort of thing by the other two players in what is his most solid three-piece since the days of Warehouse: Songs and Stories: Jason Narducy of Split Single on bass and Jon Wurster of Superchunk on drums. Not for nothing do I say that some selections here, like "What Do You Want Me To Do", mine the same vein of indie-rock that Wurster's main band mines. Mould perfected this sort of emotive power-pop-style long before Mac McCaughan did, admittedly, but I like how this record almost draws a circle from Husker Du to Superchunk and back to Mould again.
And for every number here that will sit nicely next to a 'Chunk track, or, heck, a Split Single one, Mould has imbued lots of this with real nuance, the sort of nuance that indicates he's interested in pursuing other styles. The elegant and elegiac "The Final Years", for instance, soothes as it soars, while the hushed "Camp Sunshine" offers up what seems -- at least to this long-time fan -- as lyrics that perhaps hint at Bob's old band(s), and, possibly, departed friends, like the late Grant Hart. Remarkably, and perhaps not too surprisingly, Bob Mould never slips in anything that's too sentimental here on Sunshine Rock; his brand of mature power-pop in 2019 is the well-earned kind, and the product of the lessons learned and shared in the grooves of Candy Apple Grey, Copper Blue, and Patch The Sky.
The sort of record that feels simultaneously like a summation of an outstanding career, and the start of a bold new sound, Sunshine Rock rocks my soul. Full of at least a few contenders for what will surely end up some of my favorite tracks of 2019, it is highly recommended, especially for those of us who, in our younger years, cranked up "These Important Years" for succor in difficult times. Bob Mould understood then, and understands now, just how powerful a tonic rock can be, and Sunshine Rock is a bracing one.
Sunshine Rock is out on Friday via Merge Records.
[Photo: Alicia J. Rose]