on February 17, 2004
And if that sounds boring, I'm sorry. This record is anything but. I can understand how the lack of fuzz guitar could seem strange after so many years of great Husker Du punk/rock product. It bothered me, too, back in the day when I bought this on cassette.
However, I learned quickly that his clean electric guitar sound brought his "folk" rock tendencies to the fore, highlighting the best vocals of his career and spotlighting some of his best playing (Sunspots, the instrumental that opens the record).
Moving right along, this album boasts at least one masterpiece of pop, "See A Little Light." Ringing guitars and a catchy course can make even the most cynical Mould fan smile and wonder if he's been listening to Marshall Crenshaw.
Of course, Mould is from Husker Du at this point, so we need our angst factor: "Wishing Well" and "Compositions for the Young and Old" fulfill this nicely. Both are folk/rockers with great lyrics smothered in a wall of sound concocted by Mould. Strangely enough, the approach works. By straining a little to hear his words, we feel closer to the artist. Kudos to Mould in his producer hat, overseeing the mix.
With contributions from Anton Fier (drums, Golden Palominos), Tony Maimone (bass, Pere Ubu), and Jane Scarpatoni (cello, Tiny Lights), this is an alternative album a folkie can love, a folk album a punk can dig, and just an -expletive deleted- great record. I can't reccommend it more highly. Seriously. Buy the damn thing and give the man a retirement plan. I mean this.
on November 7, 2003
I've had this CD for many years now and it is one of the few I keep reaching for. Rather than getting tired of it or wondering what I ever liked about it, as I do with many other CDs, I appreciate Workbook more as I get older. This album represents Mould at his songwriting best; both lyrically and musically. Comparing this record with his Husker Du material, one can sense so much maturity. He wrote this album during a time of reflection after the breakup of one of the most influential post punk bands of the early 1980s. Mould definitely took a lot of care into making this album. It is his most personal work and the most beautiful, especially the song "Poison Years." Other highlights include "Wishing Well," "Heartbreak a Stranger," "Dreaming I Am," and "Sinners and Their Repentances." The latter is one of the most beautiful tracks I've ever heard: "These sins, they seem to fit you, well. Since I have known these sins so well." It is almost perfect. It is a wonderful album for introspection. Also, Mould REALLY SINGS on this album. He has a beautiful voice which was not so evident when he was wailing songs like "59 Times the Pain" with Husker Du. He does save some screaming and shouting for the final track "Whichever Way the Wind Blows," ending the album with a rude awakening and a precursor to the next album. After floating away with Workbook, pop in Mould's 2nd solo album Black Sheets of Rain for dark, angry and powerful release.
on September 22, 2004
i have been a fan of Sugar for quite a while, and always enjoyed classic Husker Du, but was rather late in terms of discovering Bob Mould's solo efforts. regardless, since i got this CD about two years ago, not a week goes by without listening to it. it is simply an amazing effort put forth by Mould, and to think that it came out in 1989/1990 blows me away. how many years i missed listening to this gem of a release!!! every track is fantastic...the melodies are superb, the lyrics are thought provoking, and Mould's vocals sound better than ever. there is not one weak track....the guitars are angry, the melodies are catchy, the words will leave impressions in your mind long after you're done listening....
yo Bob, thanks for a collection of music that i will never tire of and for a collection of music that has gotten me through some tough times.
on January 13, 2000
This phenomenal rocker came out when I was just starting college and no recording has ever quite managed to hit me in quite the same way, before or since. Aside from being a guitar god--perhaps _the_ best composite player (solo/rhythm/texture) around--, Mould is also the master of a lyrical and vocal performance that manages to slam you over the head with a hammer. This bombast is entirely forgivable, given that I happen to adore it and can connect with just about everything he says. It's difficult to say which moment on this gem shines the brightest, and defining it would be tantamount to picking a favorite son or daughter. Nevertheless, "Brasilia crossed with Trenton, Wishing Well, and Lonely Afternoon" all never cease to put goose bumps on the back of my neck. And yet, Bob's on-stage persona is utterly pretension free and I'm tempted to ask him and his band if they want to stick around for a round of beers at the local bowling alley. Aw shucks. Thanks Bob for being there for me in your music, of which _Workbook_ is your crowning achivement.
on July 8, 1999
It is very rare for me to own all of the recordings an artists puts out, but I think I have everything Bob has made.
Of all the CDs I own, when I cannot find whatever it is I am looking for at the time, I know I can put in Workbook and be satisfied. Somedays, it's "Light", others its "Heatbreak" and lately its "Trenton" again.
I've lived in 9 places since I bought my copy, but all that time I always knew where it was.
And I think it is hilarious that even after a zillion listens, there are still a couple of songs with words I am still figuring out...it's like there is something to be discovered everytime you listen to it.
on September 6, 2001
I first came across this record at a relatively young age. In sixth grade, my brother and I accidentally exchanged Walkmans. I got Workbook by Bob Mould while I think he got Open Up and Say Aahh by Poison. Needless to say, I came out on the better end of the deal. Although I wasn't nearly old enough to grasp the maturity of the lyrics, the melodies and sounds on the record were beautfiul. Twelve years later, this CD remains one of my favorites. Now that I'm somewhat able to understand the statements in the album, this record packs even more punch than before. If this record is accessible by a pre-pubescent kid, I think that its universal appeal goes without saying. Buy it!!!
on August 7, 2000
I don't like to toot my own horn, but I saw Bob's last stop on the Workbook tour at 1st Avenue. It was loud. I wasn't even that familiar with the album, which had come out about six months earlier, but I had discovered Hüsker Dü (for myself) in 11th grade and I was in awe watching the man, who made such an impact on rock music, play live. Anyway, I listened to Workbook constantly for the next two years. "Wishing Well" and "Trenton Crossed With Brasillia" have a dark desperation about them that deserve a place in anyone's melancholy storage facility. He pours the works into every song.
on March 12, 2013
I have been listening to what I call progressive /contemporary rock since 1967. Always thought I had a good handle on what was out there and also what was good.
Somewhere along times line I missed this guy. My bad!. Bob mould is a great musician(so is his band) plus his songs are staggering! wishing well is my favorite but every cut is a joy to listen to.
Ill have to check out his many other albums. If you like rock/jazz or even if you dont get this album. You wont regret it!
After the frenzied pace of his first band Husker Du, Bob Mould was ready to try something different with his first solo album. Mission accomplished. Though it contains some of the punk fire that fueled the Du's best work, the best moments in "Workbook" are often the quiet ones. In fact, the first four tracks, three of which are mostly accoustic, are the highlights of the album. "Sunspots" kicks things off with a surprise instrumental and is a sign of things to come. "Wishing Well" is a Mould gem worthy of the Du. Things hit a high point with the achingly accoustic "Heartbreak a Stranger" and the more hopeful "See a Little Light," which are easilly two of the best songs Bob ever wrote. Unfortunately, the rest of the album is not quite up to the pace, though it is an excellent solo debut.
Overall, of all of Bob Mould's solo recordings, this one should get the nod for being the best.
on September 4, 1999
What strikes me is how Mould layers raging angst over soft instruments (cello, acoustic guitar). It's how I feel in my mid-30's. Recorded in Minnesota, Workbook picks up the kind of preoccupation with empty houses that a Midwesterner feels (I was one once). Except for "Whichever Way the Wind Blows" none of the Husker Du albums quite prepare you for this one, and it's one of the highlight's of the 80's.