bob-mould-0001-1200x0Bob Mould – Patch The Sky (Merge Records)

Recorded with his regular live band of Jason Narducy and Jon Wurster, ‘Patch The Sky’ marks the third in a run of LPs which has seen Bob Mould return to full-on guitar assault.

Whereas ‘Silver Age’ was inspired by Sugar’s  ‘Copper Blue’ and ‘Beauty & Ruin’ by Husker Du’s ‘Flip Your Wig’ this time there’s no single source that feeds into ‘Patch The Sky’ although precedents can be identified for many of the songs.

Opening track ‘Voices In My Head’  then sounds like a noisier take on the up-tempo songs from ‘Workbook’ whilst the bass led ‘Losing Sleep’ would not have been out of place on the electronica inspired ‘Body of Song.’

Yet these tracks are unrepresentative of the record as a whole as it’s largely dominated by the archetypal Mould buzzsaw guitar.

So we get breakneck punk rock on ‘The End of  Things’, ‘Hands Are Tied’ and ‘Losing Time’ whilst both ‘Hold On’ or ‘Pray For Rain’ see Bob veering closer to anthemic rock.

A handful of other tracks stand out. The bluesy riff of ‘Daddy’s Favorite’ wouldn’t be out of place on a Foo Fighters song yet, perhaps slightly curiously, rather than going all out for a big commercial single, Bob matches a darker melody to the catchy riff.

Closing track ‘Monument’ is the most epic track on the album with a stately grace about it which stands apart from the rest of the record.

The aforementioned bass led ‘Losing Sleep’ is the track which is the clearest sign that Bob is still wanting to incorporate electronic sounds into his rock records. It makes for a welcome change of pace even if there’s a hint of the dreaded auto-tune.

But the electronica also seeps into other parts of the record as well such as on ‘Pray For Rain’ which has a short instrumental coda reminiscent of some of the pieces on ‘Modulate’.

The reintroduction of the electronic elements really does make you ask what you expect from a Bob Mould record.

And therein lies Bob’s dilemma. For someone who has always been driven forward by doing new things it must be a source of frustration that the size of his audience seems to be in inverse proportion to his options for doing anything new.

If he explores new areas (as he did for much of the last decade) he risks alienating a sizeable chunk of his fan base, a point emphasised by the fact that the recent return to punk rock has shown that Bob still has a decent sized audience – for that type of thing.

I don’t know the answer to this – personally I’m happy to go wherever Bob decides – as indeed he’s always done.

Whether or not you find this dilemma interesting  I guess that what you really want to know is if I think ‘Patch The Sky’ is any good or not.

Well, it is. It maybe doesn’t quite hit the heights of the recent albums, but you know, it’s really not far away.

Certainly that familiarity alluded to above slightly diminishes its impact but the hooks in the songs elevate ‘Patch The Sky’ well above the likes of ‘District Line and ‘Life & Times’.

Yet I can’t help feeling that this record marks the end of a phase of Bob’s career and it will be fascinating to find out where he goes next.

Here’s a live solo performance of ‘Hold On’:

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