When it comes to rock veterans, you’d be hard pushed to find anyone more authentic than Bob Mould.
After bouncing around several labels toward the end of the 2000s Mould finally found a more permanent home with Merge Records back in 2012, and this newly found stability seems to have sparked in him a creative renaissance. Having produced his "return to form" Silver Age in 2012 followed by 2014’s Beauty And Ruin, which still stands as one of his most accomplished albums, both musically and emotionally, Mould succeded in setting the bar high for his next outing.
But after all the emotional catharsis of his pervious two albums, you might have expected Mould to have gotten the weight of his personal demons off his chest, but in Patch The Sky, Mould has instead ratcheted up the exitential anxiety, and instead of expelling his demons, he seems to be siting at the bar drinking with them.
Opener “Voices In My Head” sets the tone for the album, beginning with a bit of swirling production before the song bursts into life with an upshot of crunchy guitar and simple, direct melody that sounds effortlessly energetic. But it’s Mould’s lyricism that delivers the black squirt of ink onto the otherwise clear waters, as he considers his inner disquiet and describes his state of mind as “A cold and dark ride”.
“Pray For Rain” punches through at breakneck speed and holds just as much cathartic energy as anything produced by Mould’s 90s project Sugar, and could easily sit anywhere on their seminal final album File Under: Easy Listening.
As Patch The Sky speeds past the halfway point, Mould turns down the dimmer switch and events take a darker turn. He even starts to get a little biblical with dense imagery of the Garden of Eden permitting “Daddy’s Favourite” and an acute personal examination during “Lucifer and God” (the former receiving top billing) sees Mould diving head first into his own personal rabbit hole.
But the thing about any recent Bob Mould album is the fact that, despite all this unflinching self examination, over analysis of past relationships and death, Mould always ends up at a point of affirmation.
It’s the contrast of sparkling melodic effervescence and Mould’s obsidian soul that drives the tracks on Patch The Sky. Here, Mould has turned up the contrast between anger and melody, and found some sense of enlightenment. Perhaps Mould has finally expelled his demons after all, but then again, I’d seriously doubt that.