For the past several years, Bob Mould has struggled with his musical identity. In 1998, he released The Last Dog And Pony Show, ostensibly his final album embracing the guitar-rock bombast that made his name when he was playing in Hüsker Dü and Sugar. Mould's interests in electronic music influenced him heavily, and in 2002, he fulfilled his promised phase-out of guitar rock with Modulate, an album dominated by electronic instrumentation. Lukewarm reviews and fan response followed, and longtime listeners generally avoided Mould's all-electronic album Long Playing Grooves, released under the name LoudBomb. Given his apparently waning interest in guitar rock, it's curious that the buzz around Body Of Song suggested Mould had returned to it in the studio. Or maybe it isn't, given the response Modulate received.
Even with the pre-release buzz, it's understandable that fans have greeted the album with skepticism. While remnants of Mould's foray into electronic music remain—particularly on "(Shine Your) Light Love Hope," with its disco beat and vocal effects—Body Of Song nevertheless reprises the sound Mould's dedicated fan base craves: punk-influenced, melodic guitar rock. That may have something to do with his backing musicians: Brendan Canty (Fugazi), David Barbe (Sugar), and Matt Hammon (from Mould's 1998 band). With Barbe in the picture, it's no wonder songs like "Best Thing" and "Missing You" sound like long-lost Sugar tracks. Front and center on those songs in particular is Mould's signature guitar style, a sound that heavily influenced bands like Pixies and Nirvana, among others.
But on Body Of Song, Mould isn't simply cranking out what sells best. The moody "Always Tomorrow" is built on a simple, repetitive bassline with subtle synthesizers and heavily echoed vocals. Directly after that follows "Days Of Rain," a somber track that again follows the bass with a piano accompaniment.
On the whole, Body Of Song sounds like a sampler of Mould's work over the past decade, which makes its title completely appropriate. But Song still doesn't feel lazy. All of its 12 tracks are lushly produced and have subtle instrumental flourishes—bells, organ, noisy breaks—to give them a rich sound. Body Of Song finds Mould creating familiar-sounding music without simply rehashing fan favorites. He seems at peace with his musical identity now, and the results should please his longtime fans.