Bob Mould, "Patch the Sky" (Merge Records)
Bob Mould says "Patch the Sky" is the darkest and catchiest album he's made recently ("Silver Age" and "Beauty & Ruin" are the others in this cycle) and he's right on both counts.
"The words make you remember, the music makes you forget," Mould says about the adversity he's gone through, including "more death, relationships ending, life getting shorter."
Without sounding forced, the happy/sad contrast between melodies and lyrics puts a roll cage around the listener and makes it possible to survive sentiments like "It's the end of things, the end of everything" on "The End of Things" and "A complicated grief, I need to find relief" on "Hands Are Tied," and avoid getting crushed through the record's 42 minutes.
Joined again by drummer Jon Wurster and bassist Jason Narducy, Mould expertly layers the guitar distortion into a heaviness which would sound convincing even unplugged. Still, it's an appreciated respite when Mould eases back on "Losing Sleep," whose intensity is more Echo & the Bunnymen than Husker Du or Sugar. A couple more like that would have been welcome.
As it is, Mould is a pioneer of self-exploration and "Patch the Sky" is a rewarding listen if you are able to withstand the intensity of the search.