Friday, February 22, 2008

Midnight Sun

"The mediator between head and hands must be the heart!"
-Metropolis (1927)

“A quiet and uninteresting life.”

-Description to Boblog; Bob Mould’s blog

Bob Mould’s “District Line” makes me feel good. It taps into the things I like about guitar heavy records right away in a very lean and fat-free way. It has a lot of talent working to its highest potential. Sort of a propulsion record, something that helps the long days on the road go more smoothly, and makes lonely nights more consolable. Mould is wistful but positive here, always an admirable combination.

But I can’t recommend it. At least not with any sort of admission that Mould has thrown us into a familiar moral dilemma: Whether we’ve though about the music we like too much or not nearly enough.

Occasionally active listening allows you take yourself out of the equation. In essence the record becomes your identity. By enmeshing yourself in it, the album doesn’t soundtrack your life. Instead it provides an alternative timeline and series of events that you get to ride for a little while.

When something hits you in a particularly poignant way, you grab your bearings and realize who you are again. That’s where really deep listening gets its power from

“District Line” severely suffers once you try to take it to at a more intellectual standpoint. As a raw emotional appeal, Mould delivers big time. The seasoned and commanding pop-vocal approach he’s crafted is strong and nearly inscrutable.

“The Silence Between Us”, in particular gives us that hard to find evocation of a recent past that seems somehow further away.

When you turn a more seasoned eye past how talented and empathetic everyone is here, a lot of little touches fall short. Guitar solos last just a little too long. Electronic touches are a bit too hasty and seem out place. These lyrics also seem a bit too dumbed down for such an intellectual approach.

And everything feels just a bit too familiar. That magnificent strength that’s compelled us? Well, that’s also made some of the tracks too stiff and repetitive.

Then we’re at that dilemma again, because the production values are of a different era, circa. 1996-1998. Maybe we want to be there, but its not good for us in the long run because music has changed and its not the same animal Mould has remembered it as.

The most difficult part about writing a review like this is that Mould put his heart in this, and there’s no sincerity gap with him or Brendan Canty who’s at the production helm. But the portion of his heart which he gave us feels like the section he was most comfortable giving. Sometimes that’s just not enough.


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