Where Bob Mould’s last album, the bracingly intimate “Silver Age,” erupted with sharp, cathartic guitar chords, “Low Season” kicks off the new “Beauty & Ruin” at a glowering simmer. It’s a low, slow burn of a record where even songs that burst out of the gate with nervous, explosive energy, like “Little Glass Pill” and “Kid With Crooked Face,” have a darker, more subdued cast. Part of that comes from Mould’s voice, which is positioned far enough back in the mix that he seems distant even when he’s howling. (If the title weren’t listed, the buried chorus of “Nemeses Are Laughing” would be utterly incomprehensible in its oddly-worded glory.) Even when, thanks to the chipper melodicism and buzzing blare of “I Don’t Know You Anymore,” “The War,” and “Hey Mr. Grey,” cracks form to let some light shine through, the production’s full-intensity insistence on throwing out everything at once doesn’t leave much room for subtleties. Even in Mould’s volume-crazy Hüsker Dü and Sugar days, his songs breathed; on “Beauty & Ruin,” they just exhale. (Out Tuesday)
ESSENTIAL “The War”Marc Hirsh can be reached at email@example.com.