Title: Wishing Well
Artist: Bob Mould
Since I started buying vinyl records again, there are a number of albums I look for periodically in remastered versions on 180-gram vinyl. It's kind of fun and very reminiscent of the exact opposite quest I was on in the late 1980s when everyone (including me) was conned into thinking CDs were far superior in terms of sound quality. Bob Mould's Workbook is one of those albums. And not mostly because it needs a serious remastering job but because it's a masterpiece of its time. (SIDE NOTE: Just realized I already bought the 1989 version on vinyl BUT new 25th Anniversary heavy vinyl version out February 25th!)
Workbook is the first record Mould made after the messy dissolution of Hüsker Dü, the seminal American punk band that emerged in the early 1980s. The story goes that Mould holed himself up in a farmhouse in his native Minnesota, kicked his drinking and drug habits and set to writing one of the most personal records of his career. The result was so different than anyone could have imagined, with Mould setting aside the "wall of noise" distorted guitar sound that defined his former band in favor of acoustic guitars and (gasp) cellos.
An examination of "Wishing Well" will reveal that, despite these changes of instrumentation, Mould's style is firmly intact. The jangling acoustic guitars ring out the same open string drones that were formerly drenched with loads of distortion and Mould's voice still bellows but with a prominence that implies he has something significant to say. For those missing the electric guitars, Mould offers a characteristic guitar solo in anticipation of what is possibly my favorite moment of the song: the fiery bridge at 3:15 with its ascending bass line and accelerating chord progression. The song may not rock as hard as a Hüsker Dü song but it possesses a brimming intensity that I actually prefer.