Album of the Week: Bob Mould, 'Blue Hearts'

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Bob Mould, 'Blue Hearts'
Bob Mould's album 'Blue Hearts' releases Sept. 25, 2020. (Merge Records)

Just in time for fall in Minnesota, Bob Mould releases his 14th studio album, Blue Hearts. Recorded in the heart of the Midwest, Mould went to Steve Albini's Electrical Audio in Chicago to record 14 raw tracks that embody the essence of his sound and writing.

The album opens with the stripped back production of "Heart On My Sleeve," a song that is no less heavy than the rest of the album's punk versus due to the intense opening lyrics. Mould sings, "[t]he left coast is covered in ash and flames," painting imagery that transcends the headlines. From start to finish, Blue Hearts, doesn't let up on themes of government, religion, the environment, and injustices. The energy and rage that Mould first channeled in the 80s returns on his 14th solo album that features longtime bandmates Jason Narducy and Jon Wurster. Listen closely for the strings on "American Crisis" and you'll hear the brilliance of Mould's rock architecture shine through the noise on one of the best rock albums of the year.

In June, The Current's Andrea Swensson caught up with Mould to talk about the album's first single "American Crisis".

SWENSSON: Well, I really appreciate you taking the time to connect. So the reason that we're connecting is because you have a new album coming out, and we just debuted a couple new songs on The Current this morning that feel extremely timely in this moment, including the song "American Crisis," and I was really curious about, you know, you write in some of the words that you sent over about this work that you're seeing a lot of parallels between what's happened in the past and what's happening right now. Can you tell me a little bit more about what you man about that?

MOULD: I thought it was a little heavy at the time. I didn't think it fit with the sort of uplifting motif of being in Berlin and everything that that record was, so you know, I tabled those words and music, and when Jon Wurster and Jason Narducy and my engineer Beau Sorenson, the four of us got together in early February in Chicago to make what is this album coming up, and this song, "American Crisis," like I said, it's been around for a while. It really inspired the way that I've been looking at things the past nine months.

I think it was probably in late summer of last year, when I was in Berlin, I just started playing a lot of guitar and thinking about that song, and thinking about things that we three in the band had talked about, wouldn't it be great to make like a real raw, sort of punk-rock record because, you know, at the end of the day, that's how I tell stories. So I had "American Crisis" and I started writing around that song.

But in doing so, in September of last year, I started reflecting back and the way things were in late 1983, who was I then? You know, I was this 22-year-old kid in Minnesota, and I was in this punk-rock band called Husker Du, and we traveled around the country spreading our message to people.

Things back then were tough. I was a closeted, gay young man. I was sort of living in this new world for a couple years with this gay cancer called "grid" and then called AIDS, and you know, sort of having a hard time figuring out my sexuality and if there was a community for me to fit into and if I felt comfortable in that community, alongside a lot of televangelists and people on the right, you know, sort of the Reagan backers at the time, telling me I'm less than, telling me this is God's punishment for who I am and how I live.

All of that kind of feeling marginalized, of feeling less than, I was feeling that coming back during this current administration. It seems as if this person was chosen to be the spokesperson for a pretty far branch of evangelism.

That's what got the ball rolling, was all of those things. I don't know if any of that makes sense, but that's sort of where all the strings led, and then I sort of had this, you know, pond that became an ocean of ideas.

With "American Crisis," it's crazy because those words fell out two years ago, and they just fell out on the page and I looked at them and I'm like, "I'm not touching these." These are the words, just the way they are, and to jump up to today as we're talking and things are happening in real time, it's not something I'd wanted to see, I certainly don't take any joy in having foreseen the country going in this direction. I wish that this was not happening, but here we are.

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  • Bob Mould performs in The Current studio
    Bob Mould performs in The Current studio. (Mary Mathis | MPR)

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