Bob Mould brings ‘Distortion and Blue Hearts’ tour to City Winery

Rock musician to perform Oct. 12 as part of solo electric tour

Some of the song titles from Bob Mould’s 2019 album “Sunshine Rock” illustrate his then-outlook on life, particularly “Camp Sunshine” and “Thirty Dozen Roses.”

But the singer/songwriter/guitarist had spent a number of years living in Berlin, and while he’d heard about the increasing polarization of the U.S., it took returning to San Francisco just before the pandemic for it to really hit home—and to herald a significantly different state of mind for the follow-up to “Sunshine Rock.”

“I didn’t realize how bad it was until I got back in America,” he says on a pre-tour call from his home. “That was when it really sank in for me. My rage meter started to heat up, as it sometimes does when I feel like I’m being persecuted again.” No one in rock does rage quite like Mould does, and his latest record, “Blue Hearts,” masterfully channels that anger into top-notch, mostly short songs with tight, frequently rapid-fire playing from Mould and his solo band compatriots, bassist Jason Narducy and drummer Jon Wurster.

The former member of ‘80s punk pioneers Hüsker Dü and frontman of ‘90s alternative rock group Sugar is on a solo electric tour, just Mould with his voice and his trusty Fender Stratocaster guitar, that brings him to Atlanta’s City Winery on Wednesday, Oct. 12. He’s performing at the 40 Watt Club in Athens the night before. H.C. McEntire opens both shows.

The upstate New York native’s concern over the direction of his homeland led him to combine “American Crisis,” held over from the ”Sunshine Rock” sessions, with other songs for what became “Blue Hearts,” which he describes as a protest album. “Those (songs) were a direct, immediate reaction at the end of 2019 when I was back in San Francisco,” Mould acknowledges.

Credit: James Richards IV

Credit: James Richards IV

The opening trio of songs on the album represent its thesis statement. The stark, solo acoustic “Heart On My Sleeve” finds a weary-sounding Mould taking stock: “The left coast is covered in ash and flames/keep denying the winds of climate change/the Deep South sinking into the sea/but you don’t believe me.” Seconds after its conclusion, the full band kicks in with the pummeling, lightning-fast “Next Generation.” The singer describes it as “the clarion call: get off social media, maybe talk to your neighbors and if you feel really strongly, go down to city hall and let them know what you think, as we’re supposed to do if we’re civic-minded.” Anchoring the opening set is “American Crisis,” with its repeated line, “this American crisis keeps me wide awake at night.”

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

The album’s themes continue across relentlessly aggressive but melodic sounds from start to finish. A particular highlight is the catchy “Siberian Butterfly,” complete with a sing-along chorus.

With a record out that he couldn’t tour behind during the pandemic, the artist spent some time looking backward—for his business. Mould assembled box sets, collectively called “Distortion,” that chronicled his solo career from 1989 to date. “Honestly, the last couple of years haven’t been my most creative time,” he confirms. “It feels like I’ve been doing a lot of administrative work, archiving work. So 2020 was one of those years that did not lend itself to my normal creative space. There was a lot of planning of tours and then rescheduling tours, and that was pretty stressful.”

Mould has begun to write again, though. While noting he has “a handful of good things,” he is adamant that he has “been doing this long enough to know that I don’t want to force myself to write a record because I’ve been in that position before.” Citing the 1994 Sugar album “File Under: Easy Listening” as an example of rushing something into recording and production with results that didn’t satisfy him, he concludes that he “learned from rushing the writing process that I don’t want to rush it just to get another record.”

One thing not in the works, at least for now, is a follow-up to Mould’s highly regarded 2011 memoir, “See a Little Light: The Trail of Rage and Melody.” While noting he has plenty of subject matter, he has a few reasons for being disinclined to write another book.

One is the emotional toll the first one took, connected to his general preference for looking forward rather than backward. Another is based on his observations about the culture of 2022, which includes the realization that many are essentially writing the equivalent of autobiographies and putting them online in real time.

“I don’t know if there’s much of an interest in autobiographies or memoirs at the moment,” he adds, “because we’re all so wrapped up in the unfortunate monopolization of our time and energy with the state of the country, and the state of the world.”

Mould continues to find inspiration in new music, naming new releases from Bartees Strange, Idles, Toro y Moi, Interpol and The Armed among his favorites. He’s certainly glad to be back in front of audiences again. And the combination of “Blue Hearts” material with a decades worth of other songs—Hüsker Dü, Sugar and solo alike—should make for a stellar evening at City Winery on Wednesday.


CONCERT PREVIEW

Bob Mould with H.C. McEntire

8 p.m., Oct. 12. $30-$42. City Winery, Ponce City Market, 650 North Ave. NE. For tickets and more information, visit citywinery.com/atlanta.