It must be tough to release new material when you are a genuine, rarified post-punk icon. Bob Mould surely knows that pressure. Whenever the songwriter re-emerges, longtime fans hold out hope that Mould will somehow retrace paths similar to his raucously jagged jaunts from Husker Du’s mid-’80s heyday. Fans of Mould’s more popcore-oriented leanings hope for a rekindling of his days fronting Sugar, the mid-’90s college-radio darling band. And me? I pick up everything, wondering if it could possibly be in the neighborhood of Mould’s brilliantly sober and understated first solo album, Workbook.
Sorry, folks — all of you. On District Line, his latest in a growing catalog of varied solo material and his first album for the tastemaking Anti- label, Mould clears out yet more brush, carving a new musical path, albeit one that draws on just about every element of his past. Hard-rocking tunes such as “Stupid Now”, “Very Temporary” and “The Silence Between Us” throb and bristle behind Mould’s layered electric guitars and Fugazi drummer Brendan Canty’s banging. The tender, more acoustic-driven “Walls Of Time”, was originally written for, but left off, Workbook. Finally, I think I speak for most Mould fans when I express thanks that only one song reaches back to the unfortunate 2002 electronic-dance album Modulate for inspiration.