After a career spanning the '80s post-punk of Hüsker Dü to the '90s alt-rock of Sugar, with solo efforts acoustic and electronic along the way, Bob Mould found his sound again (urgent vocals held aloft by big, ringing guitar melodies) on 2005's Body of Song, even if he didn't seem to have that much to say.
But on District Line, Mould has found his voice—as songwriter, man, bruised soul—to match the bear hugs of melody on which he's built his career. "Please listen to me," he begins on "Stupid Now," channeling the droning beauty of Doves, but adding cello, whispering and even the affected vocals from his dance stuff to set up a double-time chorus in which the Mould of yore stomps all over his trademark ringing G-chord.
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Though there are the comfort-food Sugar and Hüsker throwbacks—the box-chord sing-song of "Very Temporary"; the soft-loud, frantic back-and-forth of "The Silence Between Us"—as well as some artier, more textural touches from his disco era (the gentle techno of "Shelter Me," the bleepy "Miniature Parade" with its frosted vocals), the revelation here is that Mould can be as much Morrissey as he can be Marr. "Again and Again" is a simple acoustic song—Hüsker Dü's snotty "Never Talking to You Again" slowed down so Mould can actually deal with the stuff he preferred to avoid 20 years ago; when he sings in a cracking voice, "Put down the cell phone and try to be with me," you can feel the frustration and failure of his relationship, sure, but you can also sense some of the bruised triumph of living to rock through it while rolling with it. He Are the Champions, my friend.