Review | Bob Mould at Engine Rooms, Southampton: 'A cacophony of melody and mayhem'

Rarely is a tour so well-named as Bob Mould’s current jaunt – Solo Electric Distortion.

Tuesday, 14th June 2022, 5:39 pm

As the frontman of the legendary alt-rock godfathers Hüsker Dü and their early-’90s successors Sugar, not to mention his prolific solo career, Mould has released more than 20 albums over a career now nudging into its fifth decade.

This tour is a re-rescheduled belated celebration of his 40 years in rock, and as the name suggests is Mould alone – just one man and his guitar.

But this couldn’t be any further from some nice sedate acoustic affair – it is Mould with his trusty Fender Stratocaster, a barrel-full of energy and a howling gale of feedback, angst and anger.

Bob Mould at Engine Rooms, Southampton, June 13, 2022

The set cherry-picks from all three phases of his output and the pace is rarely less than frenetic – Mould attacks his instrument like a man possessed, strafing furiously, the noise level often punishing. After three songs he looks up and says with a grin: ‘Is it too fast?’ before immediately ploughing into Sugar’s Hoover Dam.

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Bob Mould looks back over his 40 year career with Hüsker Dü, Sugar and solo ahea...

Early in the set he apologises for not talking too much because his voice is ‘on the rocks, so I'm just going to play.’

He does ask though if anyone saw Public Image Limited play at the venue the night before to the sound of tumbleweed – saying he would have come if he’d had a night off.

Bob Mould at Engine Rooms, Southampton, June 13, 2022

Hardly Getting Over It is one of the quieter entries in the Dü catalogue. Not that you’d know it from tonight – it’s introduced with a sound like a jumbo taking off, with the track rolling into another Dü classic – the lacerating Hate Paper Doll.

And Sunshine Rock, the title track from his ‘happy’ 2019 album fizzes with vitality.

There are a few tracks from his latest album, Blue Hearts – perhaps surprisingly not its lead single American Crisis with its righteous anger – but Siberian Butterfly and The Ocean stand with the best of his work.

While it is strange at times to see Mould in this format, without a band, it’s never a bad thing to see a legend of alternative music refusing to rest on his laurels.

It’s a cacophony of melody and mayhem – lean into it and never mind that ringing in your ears...