Secret Meeting score: 75
by Phil Scarisbrick
The former Hüsker Dü and Sugar frontman has always embraced the darkness. Emerging in an era where ‘Reaganomics’ saw his home country become a cauldron of greed, with the rich getting richer and poor getting pissed off, he and his Hüsker Dü bandmates harnessed this anger to create balls-to-the-wall punk that spat in the face the Right’s hijacking of the economy. After a trilogy of solo albums that reflected on his life, relationships and family – all of which carried a hard, dark tone (Silver Age, Beauty & Ruin and Patch The Sky) – he has returned with a record that ‘does exactly what it says on the tin’ – Sunshine Rock.
The power trio has always been a hallmark of punk music, and it is utilised here to create a record that is a bundle of giddy, exciting and largely fun songs. The album’s title track epitomises this new outlook, with the addition of a string section – evoking the Manic Street Preachers’ transformation into an anthemic power trio themselves with Everything Must Go. Thirty Dozen Roses is a ferocious beast of a track that is probably the most intense on the record, and also the most dark lyrically as Mould laments, “Olive branches piled up at your door/You don’t let me come inside your place no more“.
The Final Years brings the intensity down a notch with its synth-heavy soundtrack, quickly followed by the melody-drenched Irrational Poison restoring normal service. I Fought opens with a riff that recalls The Cult’s She Sells Sanctuary, before kicking into a ferocious jaunt that’s sound would not be too alien to fans of former Mould tour mates, Foo Fighters. Sin King offers a double entandre as its lyrics suggest a failed romance, but given Mould’s proclivity for tapping into the political zeitgeist, it also appears to be a lament on the current state of American life as he scornfully spits, “Years ago, we used to be so proud/And free to speak our thoughts out loud/Now all this ugly friction, it wears and tears me down“.
Sunshine Rock may not completely break the shackles of his previous malaise, but it does see a more comfortable and at peace Bob Mould. His music has always managed to blow the smoke away from any given subject, but here rather than dwell on it, he shrugs his shoulders and moves on. An infectious, powerful and fun record that will have you dipping back in for years to come.