As an avid fan of almost everything Bob has done musically (come on, do you really listen to Modulate?), I followed most of the publicity prior to the release of this album, which Bob himself described as a return to his Workbook era, some 20 years ago. After the disappointment of District Line (which had only a few moments of brilliance and a many moments of mediocrity), I cautiously previewed the songs for Life and Times and was impressed enough to shell out my cash for this latest installment of Bob’s impressive career.
This album is a big improvement over the aforementioned District Line – the electronics are less prominent in the mix (which Bob should ideally reserve for Blowoff) and the addition of Jon Wurster of Superchunk behind the kit has added to the sound. Bob seems re-energized by the simplicity of the songs and the production has been stripped down to fewer elements when held up against all his previous 00’s releases. The bleeps and electronica soundscapes are no longer at the forefront as they were on District Line and Body of Song, and are almost completely replaced with passionate and honest performances which add to the strength of this superior collection of songwriting.
Life and Times is a ‘give the people what they want’ effort; the vast majority of Bob Mould die-hards want to hear compelling guitars and gritty vocals, not ‘techno’! Any comparisons between Workbook would be unfair given the fact that Workbook is the greatest monument of his solo career thus far; if you are looking for Workbook 2, then you won’t find it here. Life and Times would rate as his strongest collection of songs since his self-titled album from 1996. Key tracks include the opener ‘Life and Times’ (which, of all the tracks, would actually have fit perfectly on Workbook), ‘The Breach’, ‘Spiraling Down’ and the single ‘I’m Sorry Baby…’. These four tracks alone warrant any fan of Bob Mould purchasing this strong album. This is not quite Workbook, but defintely in the upper half of his solid resume.