“What do you want me to do?” asks Bob Mould on his latest album Sunshine Rock. My answer: “whatever the hell you want”. Bob Mould owes rock fans absolutely nothing at this point. He helped give the world the blueprint for alternative rock with his first band Hüsker Dü, perfected straight-up alternative rock with his band Sugar’s Copper Blue album, and then has gone through a bit of a resurgence with some of the best, most pure music of his career in the 2010’s. And yet, the man still delivers.
As Bob Mould has stated in interviews, Sunshine Rock was an attempt to write a more intentionally optimistic album. Which I don’t think is to say that Mould has ever had trouble writing a sunny hook to go along with his relentless brand of swirling guitars and impassioned vocals. But here, it does seem like Mould is a bit more at peace with himself, while the restlessness of his earlier work often shines through.
Which makes for an album that is pretty in line with the string of albums Mould has released since 2012’s Silver Age. But like all of the albums in this series of late-career releases, there’s a little bit of variation peaking its way through the rock solid sound created by Mould along with bassist Jason Narducy and drummer Jon Wurster. There’s a bit more of a string-inflected sweep to some of the songs, particularly the two ones that bookend the album (“Sunshine Rock” and “Western Sunset”). Which both rock for sure, but show that Mould can give you what you came for, but can also surprise you with what you didn’t.