The longer an artist sticks around, the more pronounced the struggle becomes between two conflicting impulses: the desire to indulge in weird tangents vs. the desire to please an audience by sticking to one’s strengths. Too much of the latter can put you in a serious rut. But too much of the former can result in records as embarrassing as ex-Husker Du guitarist Bob Mould’s 2002 catastrophe Modulate, a fish-out-of-water electronic effort that has only become more malodorous with age.
Body Of Song tries to have it both ways, returning Mould to the crushing-wall-of-guitar rock he does best while integrating the occasional electronic flourish. “(Shine Your) Love Light Hope” and “I Am Vision, I Am Sound” both have that chirpy vocoder effect Cher turned into such a cliche with “Believe”, and it’s an uneasy fit atop Mould’s guitar maelstroms.
Other than that, though, Body Of Song feels like old times. The album reunites Mould with Sugar bassist David Barbe; they’re joined by Fugazi drummer Brendan Canty. They gleefully bash away, Mould’s electric guitar churning and snarling just like back in the day. Even when Mould turns down the volume on a few acoustic numbers reminiscent of his 1989 solo debut Workbook (the cello-adorned “Days Of Rain” and “Gauze Of Friendship”), the lyrics have plenty of bite in a personal-as-political vein. Those are the change-of-pace valleys between the peaks of mountainous guitars, and Mould does not disappoint.