Edsel Records [Release date 25.05.15]
Ex-Hüsker Dü guitarist Bob Mould’s debut solo album Workbook 25 (1989) and the follow up Black Sheets Of Rain (1990) get the ’25th anniversary’ treatment courtesy of Edsel Records.
Workbook gets a bonus track (‘All Those People Know’, a single B-side) plus a second CD containing a complete 1989 performance recorded two weeks after the album release, while Black Sheets Of Rain has long been unavailable on CD.
I have to confess to knowing little of Bob Mould, Hüsker Dü, or his subsequent band Sugar. But the general wisdom seems to be that he’s something of a Neil Young character – equally at home with acoustic or grunge and, in Workbook, laying the template for R.E.M.’s Automatic For The People (1992) and Nirvana’s In Utero (1993).
After Hüsker Dü split in 1988, and having quit the drink and drugs, Mould signed with Virgin and came up with the unexpected – an album the antithesis of his trademark wall-of-noise guitar sound – an album of thoughtful, atmospheric material featuring clean guitar lines and cellos. It reached # 127 on the Billboard 200 chart, and the single “See a Little Light” fared reasonably well.
It wasn’t a move to last long though, Black Sheets of Rain returning to his denser and more tormented sound that paved the way for the grunge generation of Nirvana, Soundgarden, and the like.
Personally, I’ve never been a fan of grunge, but it has to be said that both albums have stood the test of time remarkably well, the re-mastered Workbook, in particular sounding fresh and invigorated 25 years down the line.
Think R.E.M. meets Dave Grohl and you’re not going to be very wide of the mark. It’s easy, with hindsight, to see the influence these records have had and for those with a liking for the genre they’re well worth exploring. Workbook 25 **** / Black Sheets Of Rain ***
Review by Pete Whalley
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