A few years back, Bob Mould announced that he was hanging up his guitar for good -- not that he was retiring, but that he was embarking on a new phase of his career, one that would focus on electronics and other items off the six-string path. Well, Body of Song
indicates the lure of his roots might have been too strong; while not a full-fledged return to the overdrive of Hüsker Dü
, it does echo the sensibilities of both bands in songs that seem like the aural equivalent of hybrid cars. Some of Body
's parts evoke the spirit of vintage Mould, notably the reverb-drenched opener, "Circles," and "Paralyzed," which weaves a series of jangly riffs through a cottony blanket of synthesizer. The disc's most energetic moments are driven not only by Mould's trademark shout but also by the close backbeat laid down by bassist David Barbe (who held down that spot in Sugar) and Fugazi drummer Brendan Canty. Even when they're relegated to the background, however, Mould brings a driving passion to the proceedings. He taps into a palpable sense of drama on "High Fidelity," which is layered with lush organ and elegiac bells, as well as on the acoustic "Gauze of Friendship." When Mould ventures into strictly electronic territory -- as he does on "(Shine Your) Light Hope Love" -- he loses momentum, in large part because he chooses to mask his voice with unnecessary effects that take away from its emotive power. But aside from a few such lapses, Body of Song
is the kind of album that Bob Mould fans have been anticipating for a long while -- and, perhaps more important, the kind of disc that could win over a slew of newcomers.