Monday, December 5, 2011

Bob Mould as prime mover

I have a few pop music sacred cows. My favorites from the 80-90's were The Smiths, REM, The Waterboys, Bob Mould,  and Rollins. From the last the last ten years, Ryan Adams, Neko Case, The Drive-By Truckers, and the Decemberists.

Turns out, they all sort of like each other. At least some of them. The Decemberists have played with and covered songs by The Waterboys. Neko tweeted recently about how much she likes Morrissey. Ryan Adams is a huge Smiths fan. Michael Stipe and Morrissey like each other's work. (Rollins despises Morrissey, but how could he not?)

Bob Mould was feted in Los Angeles last month; Dave Grohl paid tribute to the obvious debt Nirvana owed to Husker Du, Spoon and The Hold Steady played mini-sets, and Ryan Adams....well, Ryan did this. This is my favorite Bob Mould song, sung by my favorite singer-songwriter (not named Neko) of the last ten years.

I'm amazed by diachronicity.

If anybody could read my mind
And share with me these thoughts
Of all the enemies left behind
And friends that time forgot
Pretending nothing could ever phase you
Well, some things never change
Tell me, why do these words ring home?
How can you heartbreak a stranger?
Plato asked the same question of poetry: how does its power drive men mad?

I met Bob once. My recently-departed and much-missed friend Thomas has spoken with him many, many times. But he's an enigma.

And sometimes, his words eviscerate us.

But sometimes, that heartbreak doesn't just rend. It also binds. One could say that I ride a bike today (and suffer all the madness that choice has fostered) because I ran into Miah at a Bob Mould show, four years after he and Thomas and I drove halfway across Iowa to watch Bob play a solo show in Ames. I'm thinking now of all the choices I've made because of the bike, all the new friends in my life today. Where I went to grad school. Those choices were catalyzed by a shared affection for Bob's work.

Sometimes, you can save a stranger. So thanks for that, Bob. We'll see you sometime on the road.


  1. I was putting new stuff on Nathaniel's iTouch the other day. We were looking for things. When he heard "Workbook" he asked if we could put that on too. It's on right next the John Denver/Muppets Christmas album...just a few clicks from Harry Nilsson "The Point".

  2. My favorite is "Turn On the News" from when he was with Husker Du.