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POP MUSIC REVIEWS

Bob Mould Limited in Folkish Solo Performance

November 04, 1996|NATALIE NICHOLS

"Bob Mould is Bob Mould," proclaim the liner notes of the singer's new album, on which the former leader of Husker Du and Sugar played all the instruments. Bob Mould was Bob Mould at his El Rey Theatre concert on Saturday, too, but the only instrument he played was guitar.

The 75-minute set was light on new tunes, heavy on fan-pleasing old favorites from the indie-rock pioneer, including numerous Sugar songs and the Husker Du classic "Makes No Sense at All." But the folkish presentation made Mould's limited vocal range more apparent, while his repetitive, slashing acoustic guitar style too often neutralized his formidable songwriting.

He wielded his 12-string fiercely, however, closing his eyes and building an instrumental fury to match vocals that bled with emotional loss and longing. Genuine though it was, this undiluted misery became desensitizing. Still, the rawness occasionally resonated, as in the resentment oozing from the new album's "Thumbtack," with its taut acoustic rhythm and elegant, obsessive metaphor for emotional betrayal.

More often the subtlety of the finer new songs, which sweeten their lyrical venom with ringing pop hooks, wasn't realized in this performance. While he wasn't expected to duplicate the layers of guitar on the studio track, Mould rendered the droll pop tune "Egoverride" as a mere fuzzed-out drone during his electric-guitar encore. Solo vision or no solo vision, Mould would have done better to maximize this material's pop potential with a live band instead of marginalizing it.

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