Bob Mould, center, with Jason Narducy, left, and Jon Wurster. (Peter Ellenby / Merge Records )
3 1/2 stars (Out of 4)
The words "youth culture" have been associated with rock 'n' roll for decades. The first eight months of 2012, however, have brought us mounting evidence to the contrary. "Never," Mould snarls in the title track, "too old to contain my rage."
Who knows (or cares) what the song's target — a "stupid little kid" — did to enrage Mould. What matters here is that Mould, now in his 50s, is surveying the landscape with fire rather than contentment, and the results couldn't sound more vital. Like recent works from the likes of Redd Kross, Mission of Burma and OFF!, Mould's guitar-bass-drums are on the attack, and with 10 songs over and done in less than 40 minutes, he's not here to sit and reflect.
Superchunk's Jon Wurster brings a big-beat counterpunch to Mould's low-to-the-mix vocals on "Briefest Moment," and when "Steam of Hercules" slows to a highway speed-limit pace, it practically comes off as a ballad despite a mix that has the song drowning in a cavalcade of guitars. "Are you in my way?" Mould asks in the tense, leaden-guitar stalk of "Fugue State," while "Angels Rearrange" refines the marriage of melodicism and relentlessness.
The most obvious reference point here is Mould's post Hüsker Dü-act Sugar, whose two full-length albums were recently reissued and tempered alt-rock-era weightiness with frisky hooks. "Silver Age" is an exclamation point to those reissues, a nod to the past but with clear direction forward. Just when album-closer "First Time Joy" seems ready to succumb to days gone by, the guitars, like battle armor that can't be put down, flare and Mould offers a parting shot: "Here we go again."
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