The reissue of Bob Mould’s two Creation solo LPs has rather been overshadowed in amongst the Sugar reissues and the new ‘Silver Age’ LP. Which is a tad unfortunate. The consequence is that rather than getting their own deluxe releases, ‘Bob Mould’ and ‘The Last Dog and Pony Show’ are packaged together with a live LP.
Whilst history will undoubtedly agree with the contemporary view that ‘Bob Mould’ (aka ‘Hubcap’) and ‘Last Dog and Pony Show’ weren’t as good as Sugar, I beg to offer a differing take.
It’s understandable that the more introverted ‘Bob Mould’ would be seen as a disappointment in the wake of the Sugar juggernaut but it’s a record that bore repeated listens. And to these ears at least it’s right up with the best of Bob’s output. Let me put it like this – would I swap ‘Hubcap’ for ‘FU:EL? No way.
The use of a drum machine rather than a real drummer is the most persistent criticism of the record but for me that only helps the record stand out from the back catalogue. The songwriting throughout is at a sustained high level, whether it be the opening Joy Division influenced ‘Any More Time Between’, the more tortured ‘Thumb Tack’ or the rockers such as ‘I Hate Alternative Rock’ or ‘Fort Knox, King Solomon’.
There’s only 3 bonus tracks but none have been officially available before in the UK, having been released on the US only ‘Ego-override’ EP. They confirm the view that Bob’s songwriting was still in the zone as they’re all pretty good.
‘Last Dog and Pony Show’ is a slightly different kettle of fish. Whilst it may be better than history records, it’s undoubtedly also true that for the first time this is a Bob record without its own character, as its roots can be fairly traced to earlier LPs.
Had Bob’s original intentions been realised it would have been a very different record. Disenchanted with his loud guitar stock in trade, all sorts of electronic links were recorded to go between the songs but these were accidentally erased. With the loss of these segments, Bob’s interest in the record supposedly waned.
Yet, it’s far from a bad record. There’s plenty of great stuff, like ‘Reflecting Pool’ which has traces of the intended approach merging as it does from an electronic maelstrom from which ‘Reflecting Pool’ emerges.
Bob’s growing interest in electronic music was flagged up on hip hop cut-up ‘Megamanic’ which it’s fair to say isn’t entirely successful. It was also a dead end – his future electronic music wouldn’t revisit this sort of thing.
Given the background to its parent LP, it’s perhaps no surprise that the tour that followed was announced as Bob’s last ever electric band tour. If that didn’t turn out to be true, it still marked a watershed – this was the last Bob tour not to rely heavily on classic material.
Documented on the final disk in the set, ‘Live Dog 98’, previously released on Granary Music, is a blistering record of the tour. Dominated by ‘Last Dog’ and ‘Hubcap’ tunes, the set was effectively a solo LPs tour with the remainder of the material from ‘Workbook’ and ‘Black Sheets of Rain’. With one twist.
Essentially, the approach was to make the songs louder and heavier and by and large it works brilliantly. The only exception is a rushed take on ‘Reflecting Pool’.
The weird thing is that it’s a better record than it was a gig. Recorded in London, I was there and it was a show that definitely had its troughs as well as its peaks.
The twist? The only song played that wasn’t on any of Bob’s solo LPs was Sugar’s ‘Man In The Moon’. It was a decision that was to open a new, backward looking approach for the live shows. But that’s another story.