100 Favourite Songs #100 ‘Moving Trucks’ Bob Mould

This song sits early in the set on The Last Dog and Pony Show,  the fourth solo album by former Hüsker Dü and Sugar axeman (guitarist) and singer Bob Mould.  It’s a simple observation.  The main character, I imagine is standing in the kitchen watching the trucks back up and his former partner’s stuff disappearing into the back and down the road, the physical reminders of a relationship travelling off into the distance of a new separate future.  To me this album was always a chronicle of a man breaking up and slowly piecing his together back together.  He tries to move on, through successes and disasters looking to replace what he’s lost, sometimes  disastrous consequences.  There are the break up and move out songs, like this one, the songs about dating (in a pre-internet world, it was “The Classifieds”) and dangerous flirtations with the porn and sex trade (“Skin Trade”).   There are even angry, wild moments of regret, like “Who was around“, about feeling emotionally used and discarded.  Moving Trucks sets the scene perfectly for what s to come.  It’s a very consoling song, especially for anyone who’s gone though a physical and emotional change, like a break up or divorce.   There was once a time I listened to it a lot.  It was unbelievably cathartic.   While the album is steeped in the driving rock he had become known for, songs like “Reflecting Pool,” the mechanical-sounding “First Drag Of The Day” and the sample-heavy, but just weirdly wrong,  “Megamanic” demonstrate the growing interest in electronica which he would spend the next few years exploring in more depth.

In fact the title refers to Mould’s intentions stop touring with a full electric band.  He was, at the time, at least, intending to move in an electronic direction, away from his hard core grunge and axe routine and try sampling and DJing.  He was also heavily into commentating professional wrestling at the time and commitments were starting to split is time.  Given he’d been plating hard-core for over 20 years with the Huskers, Sugar and solo, fans weren’t surprised though it was only a blip in the end, hitting the road to support his 2005 release, Body Of Song. “I’m 37 years old now,” he said at the time. “I’ve been doing it for almost 20 years. As I get older, I don’t enjoy four months on the road of full-throttle volume all the time. Though I still like that kind of music, I’d rather get away from it while I still enjoy it, as opposed to doing it because it’s my calling card and it’s worked.”

“Every other record I do is a bright or a dark record,” he observed. “It’s not intentional. Maybe it’s just me struggling to find some kind of balance. I think this one’s fairly outgoing compared to my last, especially, which was real dark and claustrophobic because that was the way I was feeling at the time. This one is a little more easy going. The stories are a little simpler and more universal. I tend to go through phases when I’m writing, and this one went through three or four pretty distinct stylistic phases before arriving at the bulk of the record, which is the upbeat electric stuff.”

Having used programmed drums on his previous, self-titled album, (affectionately known as the ‘hubcap record’) and on which he was the sole performer, Mould brought back drummer, Matt Hammon and cellist Alison Chesley.  At the time it was presumed that this effort was farewell to his full-on assault of grinding, whining grunge and angst , and it is indeed an excellent consolidation of all of his musical quirks and signatures.  It’s definitely the work of a craftsman, with full seriousness as  a constant signature, but there is a sense of humor that hasn’t been heard since Sugar, and he, overall, sounds more relaxed than he has in years.  He’s so relaxed, in fact, that he lets down his guard on the cheerfully ridiculous pseudo-rap “Megamanic,” the only track on the album that offers a musical departure from the usual template.  The rest of the record is clearly a Mould album, all over, from the rushing rockers to the impassioned acoustic ballads and the production guarantees that the music never sounds like a retread, it’s sounding familiar.  Uncomfortably familiar.

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