Bob Mould – “Blue Hearts” Review
2020 has been a perfect year for artists to make a political stance in their work.
With the Black Lives Matter movement, a global pandemic, California forest fires and a presidential election, songwriters have many topics they could cover in their work. That’s exactly what Bob Mould does in his latest album, “Blue Hearts.”
Since the breakup of Hüsker Dü in 1988, Mould has been active as a solo artist. From his first album “Workbook” onward, his music has been a rollercoaster of emotion.
It should come as no surprise then that Mould is an artist who really puts thought into his songs. He tends to write the music to reflect not only the tone of the lyrics but also his own mood towards a topic.
On top of that, Mould, known for being a guitarist as well, puts an extensive amount of his guitar skills in both acoustic and alternative into “Blue Hearts.” Loud and mad are words that could best describe his latest work.
This album is obviously very special to Mould. It mirrors his political views on today’s America as he focuses on his opinions of conservative views, homophobia and President Donald Trump.
He feels free to do so in this album because, since his time with Hüsker Dü, Mould has come out as gay. He stands strong with his sexuality and wants to share his anger for the country’s injustice.
In the first song, “Heart on My Sleeve,” the lyrics call out the people who disbelieve in climate change. The song opens with him singing, “The left coast is covered in ash and flames/Keep denying winds of climate change… but you don’t believe me.”
Already covering a highly contested topic, listeners can tell this album is going to be intense—and it’s only one song deep.
Next, his song “Next Generation” exclaims how he may not be alive in the future, but he wants to make sure this world is ready and well for the following generation. “One less thing for the next generation,” he sings. Mould is saying that he will make one last stance to make life good for those yet to come.
“American Crisis” comes close to a screamo track. “Can you look in the mirror and tell me everything is alright?” He vents about how these issues are no longer a little problem but now a catastrophe.
By this time, listeners can draw the connection between songs. Giving a shoutout or a followup to the prior song is something that Mould does frequently and with ease.
But the majority of the songs are difficult to understand lyrically. With a lot of drum and guitar present, much of Mould’s vocals become muffled and inaudible.
While alternative music does require that almost obnoxious-sounding electric guitar and bass, Mould uses too much of it here. The volume has to be turned up to nearly max just to hear the lyrics.
Although “Blue Hearts” is clearly very angry in moments, the album doesn’t only come for the throat of the people Mould disagrees with. He does have songs like “Everyth!ng to You” that touch on his love life. Even the song “Password to My Soul” is a more positive song about the world. “We’ll hold out hope this world will rise up somehow,” is an example of the positivity Mould still sees in America.
Throughout this album, it is easy to see Mould’s anger and how passionate he is towards his beliefs, and the music reflects these emotions well. Blaring music can bring the listeners into his view of these topics. But the emphasis on the sound of the music is so intense that it’s very difficult to work out words in each song. It is almost as if Mould is hiding behind his guitar. Simply adjusting that contrast to a satisfactory level would make “Blue Hearts” a much more enjoyable listen.
While perfectly angry at times, the production disparity and the lack of more worthwhile content bring “Blue Hearts” down rather significantly. For such a strong-willed album, the audience has to wonder: why is the album only 36 minutes all together? Did Mould get out everything he wanted to say, or did he just want to release his anger quickly?
Reviewer’s Favorite Song: “The Ocean”
Reviewer’s Least Favorite Song: “American Crisis”
Cade Miller is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Freshman / Broadcast Journalism