Mouldiana (1)
By: James Parker | Categories: Most Visited, Pop Music, Read-outs

BROKEN HOME, BROKEN HEART

First in a series of posts, coauthored by James Parker and Tommy Valicenti, singer/guitarist with the Boston rock band Mount Peru, parsing the solos of Bob Mould. Series intro here.

From Zen Arcade.

1984. Quadrophenia on our minds, a gram of crystal meth in the coffee pot, and away we go: Zen Arcade. The Hüskers have been living in an East St. Paul countercultural cesspit called The Church, doing acid, listening to the the Litter (’60s types with proto-Zen Arcade metallic drone — try “Journeys”), swapping instruments, swapping minds. Then they go on tour, heading west for a recording date with Spot at Redondo Beach’s Total Access. Metal Circus is behind them, the breakthrough post-hardcore fanfare of “Real World” and the huge robo-whine of Bob’s guitar tone, achieved in part by fiddling in the studio with an Eventide H910 Harmonizer. The Zen Arcade sound will be a touch less searing, drier and more compact, with Bob-riffs patterned more closely over the bucking, stuttering drums of Grant Hart.

We chose this solo because it’s classic — like Tom Petty at triple the velocity. The Hüskers, and Mould in particular, were almost insane during the 45-hour recording marathon of Zen Arcade, but this solo is shapely, meticulous, technically sweet, a measured dose. Does Bob mutter “That’s right,” or “That’s tough,” or even “That smell,” at 1.19, or does he say something else entirely? At any rate, it kicks off the solo, which layers on at 1.20 and stamps the song immediately with a Townshend-like impression of physical strength. Masculine notes, low bluesy phrases uttered at high speed and then climbing with perfect control through wicked glints of raga towards some trademark open-chord Mouldianic sizzle at 1.36. And then what does he say, at 1.50? “Getting the idea”? If so, we’ve got it.

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Co-written by Tommy Valicenti. Parker and Valicenti also collaborated on the series ANGUSONICS, which parsed the solos of AC/DC’s Angus Young.

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READ other HiLobrow series: ANGUSONICS — the solos of Angus Young | ARTIST IN RESIDENCE — HiLobrow’s favorite artists | BICYCLE KICK | THE BOOK IS A WEAPON — a gallery | CABLEGATE COMIX | CECI EST UNE PIPE — a gallery | CHESS MATCH — a gallery | DE CONDIMENTIS — a world-secret-historical take on ketchup, mustard, relish, and more | DIPLOMACY — a world-conquest boardgame musical | DOTS AND DASHES — a gallery | DOUBLE EXPOSURE — the stratagems of Middlebrow | EGGHEAD — a gallery | EPIC WINS — our versions of epic poems | FILE X — a gallery | FITTING SHOES — famous literary footwear | GOUDOU GOUDOU — adventures in Haiti | KIRB YOUR ENTHUSIASM — 25 Jack Kirby panels | LATF HIPSTER | MERIT BADGES — earn ’em! | MOULDIANA — the solos of Bob Mould | PANTENE MEME — a found gallery | PHRENOLOGY — the insane origin of browism | PLUPERFECT PDA — time-traveling smartphones! | POP ARCANA — spelunking weird culture | REBOOTING MUSEUMS | ROPE-A-DOPE — boxing | SECRET PANEL —Silver Age comics’ double entendres | SHOCKING BLOCKING — cinematic blocking | SKRULLICISM | UKULELE HEROES

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James Parker is a contributing editor at The Atlantic.