We gave it a B+
As the leader of the groundbreaking ’80s post-punk group Husker Du (and ’90s act Sugar), Bob Mould has mastered a guitar sound that’s shaped decades of indie rock since: tinnitus-inducing, slovenly, hook-saturated, with the volume, as that Spinal Tap maxim goes, cranked all the way to 11. It’s a style that’s never been in need of overhauling, and on his 11th solo album, the 55-year-old eminence grise shows he can still flail a six-string better than most kids half his age.
The glorious assault kicks off with “Voices in My Head,” and over a dozen tracks, Mould barely lets up, thanks to the added muscle of his go-to session guys, drummer Jon Wurster and bassist Jason Narducy. On “Lucfier and God,” Mould conjures a heavily-distorted groove with guitars as warbly and demented as My Bloody Valentine’s Kevin Shields, while on “Losing Time” and “Hands Are Tied,” the group veers into hardcore-punk territory, tempos revved into the red.
Mould has a reason for wanting to make such a ruckus. After the release of 2014’s Beauty & Ruin, he lost his mother — a period he has described as feeling like he “got kicked in the balls real good” — so a lot of these songs address loneliness, despair, and relationships ending, which gives Patch the Sky an extra slug to the gut. It’s not as depressing as it sounds — lyrics take a backseat to the group’s joyful noise, after all — and the good news is Mould has found a silver lining in his music. “Can I find some truth within the noise?” he wonders at the album’s start. The answer is hell yes.