With his work in Husker Du and Sugar and a brace of superb solo albums, Bob Mould has as many classics to his name as the Everyman Library. Sadly, ‘Modulate’ is not an addition to that list, it is however a good and often intriguing record.
It’s Mould, sure, but not as we know him (he’s been listening to dance music, amazingly enough). His lyrical concerns remain as dark as ever, with the album full of disappointment and fatalism (“It was terribly lame, in a predictable way”). But if it sounds all doom, gloom and synths, don’t despair, we’re not talking Depeche Mode here. More in terms of, say, Neil Young’s career, this is Trans only with better songs. (Public Health Warning: there is a vocodor on this record). So Bob’s been listening to dance and electronic but, Bob being Bob, he’s gone for the more paranoid reaches of both. There is plenty on ‘Modulator’ that connoisseurs of industrial bands like Cabaret Voltaire and Throbbing Gristle would find familiar. Whilst it does on occasion veer too close to electropop it’s also reminiscent of Peter Gabriel’s excellent early solo albums.
Standouts are the Per Soundsy ‘Without’, ‘Semper Fi’’s psych shimmer and ‘Stay/Sway’ which is full of piledriver guitar and passion. The best track is ‘The Receipt’ which sails as close as Mould will lets himself to his trademark grunge-pop, until it disintegrates into an enervated wash of synths.
More interesting than excellent , this is Mould’s most experimental album since ‘Beaster’ (the album that was a hand-grenade lobbed in the direction of Copper Blue’s commercial success) and it’s certainly more than worth a listen. But where does he go after this? 7.7/10