Perhaps knowing that by titling his album Silver Age he’d be practically begging critics to question whether he had the requisite fire in his belly left to rock convincingly at his stage of life, Bob Mould addresses the issue of his progressing maturity head on – “I’m never too old to contain my rage, my silver age…”, he belts out in the chorus of the album’s title track. It’s telling that the line is delivered barely five minutes in to the album; it’s as if the potential public perception of him returning with a ballsy rock and roll album as a man over 50 has been playing on the former Husker Dü mastermind’s brain, and he’s keen to let you know from the off that he’s still angry. But quite what he’s angry about is sometimes difficult to figure out.
The record works best when it falls back on the kind of grandly melodic, effortlessly hummable sorta stuff he perfected in his days with Sugar; ‘The Descent’ possessing a riff so infectious and uplifting you’d imagine the Foo Fighters would kill for it, and ‘Angels Rearrange’ being reminiscent of what might have happened if R.E.M. never made the mistake of thinking “Hey, guys, how’s about we listen to less Wire?”. Here, Mould seems less concerned with channelling anger than he is about getting carried away with how much fun it seems to be in a rock and roll band, no matter what age you are. It suits him.
Those two tracks come highly recommended in a manner that’s sadly hard to apply to the rest of the record. Maybe it’s something to do with the flatness of the production, the relatively buried and often distorted vocals, the way there’s very little dynamic shift throughout the entire record (it’s all loud, all the time), or just the clunky rhyming couplets Mould slips in to all too often… in fact, yes, it’s all of that. The likes of the all-too-bolshy ‘Round The City Square’ and the disappointingly basic wordplay of ‘Briefest Moment’ (“I need something to take away this pain”) come across as a failed attempt to sound edgy, when as the aforementioned duo of fine pop tunes have proved, Mould is perfectly brilliant at being one catchy songwriter.
With there being so much in the world to be angry about and us having a man at the helm here who has channelled being pissed-off better than many in the history of alt-rock, it’s hard not to want just a little more than Silver Age’s somewhat aimless fury. Mould’s consistently impassioned delivery however makes it a reasonable record as opposed to a stinker. It’s great to hear that he still sounds like he means it, even if it’s difficult to tell what “it” is, exactly.