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District Line

3.7 out of 5 stars 61 customer reviews

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Audio CD, February 5, 2008
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Guitarist/singer/songwriter Mould returns to form as a solo artist on his Anti debut. "District Line" combines the fire of his earliest work in Husker Du, the accessibility of his alternative rock, genre-defining trio Sugar, and the introspection found in his solo releases. He describes it as "stories of my simple life in a complicated town", that being his adopted city of Washington, DC. Working with Fugazi drummer Brendan Canty, Mould has returned to the live band sound of Husker Du and Sugar to kick out ten songs that sound as youthful, energized, and immediate as anything he has ever recorded. This is a full on rock 'n' roll record, featuring members of Fugazi, and will appeal to fans of that band, as well as new fans raised on Alkaline Trio and Against Me.

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District Line, Mould's seventh solo album, is a swell follow-up to his bracing 2005 return-to-rockishness record Body of Song. You'd think the guy's heart would get tired of having to beat upon his sleeve all the time--but here we are treated to ten new self-deprecating, brutally honest and often (weirdly) upbeat songs from the founder of Hüsker Dü and Sugar. It's hard not to cheer Mould on in his desire to meld electronic and hard rock elements--after all, he's been on this track for more than six years now. What's strange is that the best songs tend to be those that get lost in either genre rather than the hybrid exercises. One does wish that Mould would abandon that annoying auto-tune synthesizer thing on his voice once and for all. Though "Old Highs and New Lows" is so far towards and through modern MOR sound, it's definitely one of the more memorable tunes. The exceptionally talented Washington, DC resident busts out a few guitar-heavy crunchers that will remind old-timers of when they lost their hearing seeing either of those bands live. The best of these, "Return to Dust," should go on for longer than "Reoccurring Dreams," but is only four and a half minutes. --Mike McGonigal
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (February 5, 2008)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Anti
  • ASIN: B000Z9RD2Y
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (61 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #167,322 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
Bookended between two notable tracks ("Stupid Now" and the years' old / finally recorded "Walls in Time"), the bulk of Bob Mould's DISTRICT LINE is -- like the man himself -- honest, artful, and, for those of us who have followed his career since the beginning, subtle in its complexity.

On the heels of BODY OF SONG (arguably he's strongest collection of songs since WORKBOOK), DISTRICT LINE shows a Bob who is finally comfortable with the many aspects of himself that once seemed in conflict. Searing guitar riffs layer more organically over electronic blips and beeps. Acoustic guitar lead-ins find good company and solid grounding in Brendan Canty's drums. Even the cello returns! And keyboards fill in the empty spaces while a pop-sensibility sits side by side with some serious introspection.

Is it old ground? Certainly. But for the first time (BODY OF SONG included), Bob sounds satisfied with it all. Comfortable. Dare I say "happy"?

Some songs miss the mark in mix-down. Vocals seem lost in the otherwise rocking "Return to Dust" and "Shelter Me" throws everything but the kitchen sink into the mix. Perhaps the biggest disappointment? "Walls in Time" -- a song of such intensity and beauty that, when played live, has literally brought me to tears -- is a solid arrangement but lacks the vocal potency that Bob has shown countless times in concert (compare to some bootlegs out there and hear how these lyrics can truly move you). Still, the strength of tracks like "Silence Between Us" and the aforementioned "Stupid Now" more than makes DISTRICT LINE a keeper.

The familiar themes of lost love, missed opportunities, and the spaces between us are all there.
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Bob Mould has always been one of those artists I've respected more than I've enjoyed. It's an odd kind of statement, I know, but there's a lot of artists who qualify: men and women who are artistically skilled, admired by their peers, masters at crafting songs or writing lyrics that ring true in all new ways...but that don't quite hook me. It's not that I'm unfamiliar. I own all of his solo work and have listened to most of my husband's collection of Husker Du and Sugar. It's just that while I've appreciated his music, not much of it has tended to stick with me. With this album, that changed. It was during the third song, "Again and Again," that I fell in love.

The first couple of songs are enjoyable, clever and inventive in some places, catchy and relatively radio friendly. Seconds after the third song started, I put it back to the beginning and turned up the volume. When it was over, I played it again. Strangely uptempo, it is an utter heartbreaker. I don't think I've ever heard Mould's voice so vulnerable and emotional.

Other tracks, too, have plenty of charm. "Return to Dust" and "Shelter Me" find Mould returning from that vulnerability to a more characteristic blending of his voice into the song, until it sometimes becomes difficult to separate it--a vocal trick that he uses to good effect to emphasize voice-as-instrument. The uneven sound levels of "Return to Dust" make it sometimes hypnotic. Mould's incorporation of elements from electronica into "Miniature Parade" and trance into "Shelter Me" have a similar effect. The strings in "Walls in Time" are gorgeous.

Mould is an artist, like Kristin Hersh of Throwing Muses, who has always seemed to me interested in developing different aspects of his musical genius in different projects.
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Format: Audio CD
A happier Bob Mould? He sure sounds comfortable in his current groove. Whereas his solo career has previously been marked by blatant pendulum swings between two polar opposites---indie rock and heavily-vocoded dance electronica---lately Mould has struck a cozy balance between the two. Modulate era fans will lap up "Shelter Me" while the traditionalists rally behind "Stupid Now," the hardest rocking tune on District Line outside of the blistering guitar and pond-skipping blip-blop synth duet of "The Silence Between Us." A (slightly overlong at over six minutes) acoustical outtake from Mould's Workbook closes the disc.

Even "Shelter Me" is accessible to those with an open mind. Dizzying, shimmery pad swells and android drumming sweep Mould's vocals along; any frugal plucks of guitar serve only as subtle accentuation, but the track is still far more organic, open and free-flowing than other dance club hitmongers like, say, Fatboy Slim or The Prodigy, summing up in a single track the direction which Mould seems intent upon steering his musical output.

While groovy all the same, the more "rock" moments on District Line tend toward an easy-going, midtempo head-bob the likes of "Very Temporary" and its simple vocal hook. Paired with some debatably awful lyricism for a musician of his history ("Just to please you, I'd blow my brains out, this is it/ Cut my heart out with a razor now"), it's easy to say that Mould is coasting on the waves he used to make. Given the wide appeal and success of
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