Baker's Dozen

Artists discuss the 13 records that shaped their lives

Flip Your Wig: Bob Mould’s Favourite Albums

With his new, eleventh solo album Beauty & Ruin just released, the Hüsker Dü and Sugar man gives Nick Hutchings his top 13 records

Following the publication of See A Little Light, Bob Mould’s 2011 autobiography, the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles hosted a tribute show, where the likes of Dave Grohl, Ryan Adams and No Age acknowledged their debt to Mould by playing from his back catalogue of three almost separate careers with Hüsker Dü, Sugar and his solo output. Stretching back to Hüsker Dü’s first gig in New York City, when Mould let out one of his characteristic cathartic yelps, indicative of the hundred miles-an-hour, full disclosure nature of the landmark Minneapolis band, he’s come to terms with his legacy to the alternative music scene; not so much a godfather to grunge as its sometimes kindly, sometimes irascible uncle.

Talking to Mould now, shortly before the release of his brand new solo album, Beauty & Ruin, I felt like I’d known him for years, and our conversation racked up a few, moving from the old days to his recent busy schedule. In 2012, when he reissued the Sugar albums and played Copper Blue in full, I saw him play in-store at Rough Trade East in London, with the moment when he looked around and advised many of his greyer-haired fans against stage diving later at the Hammersmith Apollo serving as a gentle reminder of his longevity. Hot on the heels of that came a new album, Silver Age, and if he was feeling his years, that record showed he hadn’t lost any of his rage.

This year he reissued his first solo album, Workbook, marking its 25th anniversary. Candidly he told me: "Boy those songs are hard. The mechanics, the articulation of the parts, the different voices. I can’t sing that high any more – I can’t play that well any more. My playing’s gotten really lazy, I try and keep it simple these days, going back to that fingerpicking, really accurate phrasing I don’t like that."

Back to the present and Beauty & Ruin, itself a very expansive set. "It’s much wider, deeper, got a lot more going on, a real wide variety of tempo," says Mould of the album. "The song cycle is much more thought out – it’s less of a party and more of a big statement. I think it’s growth – some people are gonna think, ‘Oh, you went back to that thing’; well, I am that thing – at the risk of sounding like I’m tooting my own horn too much, I’ve actually done that a couple of times before".

If Mould seems comfortable in his own skin, it’s perhaps for the first time. He joked that when he met his hero William Burroughs he had been taking notes on how to enjoy later life. "In the 90s, spending time with him in Lawrence, Kansas and just watching how he was surrounded by people that really helped him enjoy the end of his times: kept him informed, kept him engaged, kept him protected from the wrong people even to the point where he had his main house and would eventually annexe the adjacent properties to eventually create something like a bunker, similar to 222 Bowery."

Cheekily I suggested that his current band mates, Jon Wurster of Superchunk and Jason Narducy, did this for him. "I think so, we all work together well. We have a great time. The great thing about working with them: we all live in different cities, similar to Sugar, so when we get together it’s an occasion, you know, to make a record is like, ‘Yeah, we’re gonna get together to do this thing.’"

Discussing his Baker’s, our conversation turns first to Mould’s stack of 7"s from the 60s that he often gorges himself on – on one record by Free, the grooves are so worn he can hear the next song bleeding in – and, after deliberation of his album choices and some suggested but summarily tossed out, including Cheap Trick’s In Color and The Who Sell Out ("we don’t wanna go there, that’s too easy"), we were in…

Beauty & Ruin is out now on Merge Records, with Mould currently on tour in Canada and the U.S.; head to his website for full details. Click on his image below to begin scrolling through Bob’s choices

First Record

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