Bob Mould celebrates a number of anniversaries this year. It's been 30 years since the live debut of Hüsker Dü, the ferociously melodic punk trio that introduced his formidable talents to the world, and 20 years since his landmark solo debut Workbook. In the interim, Mould has kicked the pop/punk model in the ass with Sugar, expanded his solo repertoire to include electronica and dance grooves, and generally followed his creative muse wherever it's led him. For his ninth solo offering, Life and Times, Mould continues in the relationship-centric vein of last year's District Line, but with an emphasis on the writing style that characterized Workbook. By concentrating on his songs' lyrical foundations first, Mould was free to improvise their musical skins, and his recent evolution gives him the additional freedom to access his entire body of work toward that goal.
As a result, Life and Times features a fascinating blend of Mould's diverse sonic palette, as evidenced by the album's first four songs — the title track, "The Breach," "City Lights (Day Go By)" and "MM 17" — which retain some of their original acoustic forms. Nowhere is Mould's evolution more pointed than on the album's first single, "I'm Sorry, Baby, But You Can't Stand in My Light Anymore," which would have been a pissed-off, get-out-of-my-life anthem in the Hüsker Dü/Sugar/early solo days. But now it's Mould's melancholy mea culpa ("I always find the broken ones, what does this say about me?/Maybe I'm the broken one, maybe when the lights go down/Maybe I'm the one who is lonely ..."). Life and Times isn't so much a return to form as Bob Mould's greatest hits with all-new material. — Brian Baker