I doubt Bob Mould sat down in his studio and thought to himself
"I wonder how well I could remake Neil Young's Trans,"
but that is essentially what he has done here. It's almost eerie
how close the two albums mimic each other, both in tone, style
and "uber-respected rock god runs off and makes 'quirky' keyboard
and synthesizer album" overview. To continue the freakiness,
both albums feature a couple or three songs that just might
be excellent rock songs if said rock god had deigned to record
them as rock songs. Unfortunately, in both cases, the respective
artists decided to throw caution (and better judgment) to the
wind, opting instead for some sort of poorly defined "artistic
Young later explained Trans as and attempt to
somehow communicate both with and about his difficulties in
caring for his disabled son, so only the hardest of hearts can
continue to hold the record against him on anything but a nominal
ground. Mould doesn't seem to have that escape clause. As far
back as 1998's Last Dog and Pony Show Mould was
clamoring about "finding new ways to make songs", going so far
as to none-to-subtly define that album as the end as
far as he and guitar rock were concerned.
Now, anyone who has paid even the slightest bit of attention
to me over the last couple of years will know that I don't cut
much slack for guitar artists
who suddenly find a need to get all artsy and creative with
a computer. It's not that I have anything against techno
or electronic music per se, but that I just hate to see a potentially
kick-ass song turned on its head just so the artist can say
he was being artistic and "exploring new boundaries." And I'm
not going to adjust my general point of view just because it's
Bob Mould doing the exploration.
There is no good reason whatsoever that Soundonsound
or Comeonstrong shouldn't absolutely rock. (There's also
no good reason whatsoever for there not to be spaces in between
the words of the titles, either.) But they don't. They approach
rocking, but then they inevitably twiddle away into not rocking
at all, all for the sake of art. It's a sad day when rock gets
pushed aside for art.
All in all I'm going to give Modulate 3 sponges.
It's okay at times, and if the listener weren't a big Bob Mould
fan to begin with they might find something special or worthwhile
on the album. Personally, I'm listening to Black Sheets
of Rain right now, just to get Lost Zoloft out
of my head. But that's just me, you know.