Nostalgia’s not always about kitsch. It’s not always about irony. It’s not always about reliving one’s glory days. But today’s pop cultural climate would have you think otherwise. Thanks to the glut of remakes, cover bands, and internet memes that have invaded our collective entertainment diet, people often concern themselves with the “how” but not the “why” of decades past. Although not every piece of art is going to warrant that kind of consideration, it’s important to examine what kind of an effect–if any–a particular book, album, film, or fashion had on its original audience.
Which brings us to the album tour. Over the past few years, it’s become increasingly popular for musicians to play the record or records that made them famous or relevant in their entirety. If you’re Todd Rundgren, you have one. If you’re Bruce Springsteen, you have many. For most, it means a paycheck and reminding fans you’re still alive. For the luckiest or most talented ones, it’s a way of showing you’re as good, if not better, than you were ten, 20, or even 30 years ago. It’s a way of showing you still have something to say.
In what could have been an unofficial companion piece to The A.V. Club’s current and fascinatingly thorough 1992 Week, Bob Mould took the Metro stage in front of a sold-out crowd of primarily 40-somethings to blaze through Copper Blue, his touchstone 1992 album as frontman and, let’s face it, the driving muscle behind power pop heroes Sugar. The evening could have ended there and been satisfying enough, albeit in that aforementioned, emptily nostalgic kind of way. Nineties college rock tunes from the likes of Dinosaur Jr. and modern ancestors such as No Age blared from the house speakers before Metro owner Joe Shanahan gave a brief introduction to the trio of Mould, bassist Jason Narducy, and current Mountain Goat drummer Jon Wurster.
After taking the stage, they proved that all of Copper Blue, especially the exhaust pipe chords of opener “The Act We Act” and the lustful sacrifice of “A Good Idea,” still snarls. The furious live pace added further caffeination, the acoustic strum of “Hoover Dam” and “If I Could Change Your Mind” becoming more X and less XTC when sped up by Wurster’s precise snaps and wrapped in Mould’s wasp nest of distortion.
But the turning point of the night came after the clipped ending to “Man On The Moon”. Following a few thankful words to the crowd, the band launched into several tracks off the recently released Silver Age, which, hands down, marks Mould’s best record since Sugar’s second and final full-length, File Under Easy Listening. Playing the material sandwiched between Copper Blue and a handful of Hüsker Dü songs proved that at 51, Mould’s at the top of his game.
Whether railing against celebrities in “Star Machine” or lamenting his treatment of former bandmates in “The Descent”, he’s still got ample and healthy amounts of anger simmering inside him. These songs weren’t just placeholders until Mould could get to some material from his most famous band later in the set. They were a testament to the evergreen nature of his music and his ability to transcend nostalgia. He could easily be an elder statesman to bands like the Foo Fighters, but he refuses to, opting instead to be their contemporary.
Bob Mould still has plenty to say. He always has and he always will.
Photography by Michael Roffman.