Distancing himself from both the lacerating punk tunesmithery of his legendary hardcore trio Hüsker Dü
and all the elements of his subsequent acoustic/power-pop toggling solo career, Modulate
is the result of Bob Mould throwing out his notebooks and starting his diary clean.
By adapting loops, grooves, samplers, vocoders; varying tape speeds and other silicon-chip-driven gadgetry and restructuring his songwriting process, hes doing whats known in the trade as a Kid A. In other words, hes gone weird.
Whether it's a genuine volte-face or a plain old faux-pas, its a brave man who can switch artistic allegiance from guitar-rock to the likes of synth-washed impressionism and electronica while ignoring the shrieks of "treason" and "witchcraft" from his core supporters. By venturing this far, Mould has bravely ignored all the warnings, principally the rotting corpse of Neil Young's Trans album, which still dangles from a gibbet out on the moors as an example to other rockers who should care to dabble with the black arts of electronic experimentation.
Despite the sheen of innovation, Mould has had his moments of sonic esotericism before (even Zen Arcade wasnt exactly wall-to-wall speedball punk angst) in light of which, such moments as the violin-squawking sonic contortion of "Homecoming Parade" and the random piano plinking of "Without " are less revolutionary than might be anticipated.
Despite the new awkwardness there are enough tunes (the drivetime quasi-dance of "Sunset Safety Glass"; the mumbled vocals and martial-rhythm of "Semper Fi" and even "Trade", a song which dates from the Warehouse Songs and Stories sessions) for this to pass as a decent Bob Mould album. --Kevin Maidment