Mouldiana (4)
By: James Parker | Categories: Pop Music, Read-outs

TILTED

Fourth 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 Beaster.

1992: Beaster. Pain, noise, incoherent religious imagery. Something’s going on: Sugar are in the studio, and while fifty per cent of Bob beavers brightly at the melodic turns of Copper Blue — it’ll be his biggest record ever — his darker half is engaged in the hacking-out of this appallingly intense six-song suite, “out of my fucking mind with white-hate-light-energy-noise.” What’s the problem, Bob? “Was it self-sabotage?” he asks in See A Little Light. “Not really. Was it an unpredictable blend of religious doubt and perceived loss of a companion, mixed in with thoughts of suicide, both by others and myself? Maybe.” So GOD approaches on sneaky feet, in the manner of ’70s Hanna-Barbera B-lister Hong Kong Phooey (“Who is this superhero? Sarge? No. Rosemary, the telephone operator? No. Henry, the mild-mannered janitor? COULD BE…”) But He’s not here yet, and Bob must welter a while longer in his Bob-element. (It’s possible, just possible, that we’re overstating the Pilgrim’s Progress aspect of the story.)

“Tilted” has that boxy, guitar-stuffed Sugar sound. The pace is fast, and the vocals come in high-pitched and babbling, a thin jet of anxiety: Only do these things to freak you out / 
I never wanted you to doubt me / 
I believe you / Do I believe you? The older we get, the more Bob’s relationship songs mean to us: the panic, the grasped-at words, the not relating. “Tilted”s solo is more or less the sonic analogue to these feelings. This is regressive old-school Flying-V Bob, back to the primitive wound — frantic and fixated shredding, a blizzard of undifferentiated stimuli. No peace, nowhere. “The frown of his face / Before me, the hurtle of hell/ Behind, where, where was a, where was a place?” That’s not Bob. That’s Gerard Manley Hopkins.

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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.