Out There

Big green
Blow it Out Your Ass
Veruca Salt
DGC Records

Steve Albini goes for the gold and grabs at straws: Whether the former Big Black frontman now lends his precious name to the likes of Veruca Salt and Bush for pop prestige (theirs, not his) or because it's some delirious joke (his, not ours), the result doesn't justify the extravagance. Now we're supposed to accept this mediocre pop-rock band as a would-be punk-pop band, but Veruca Salt doesn't do punk like Nirvana (the guitars echo the Albini-produced In Utero) or the pop as well as, say, that dog (the two-girl harmonies drag like a three-legged dog).

The first two songs on this EP rock hard and fast enough, and you'd be tempted to call it subversive when Louise Post and Nina Gordon's voices shine bright above the dark mix--except you've heard it before, and back then it was called the Breeders when Albini produced them. The second half of Blow it Out Your Ass just creeps along slowly enough to make you think this band is deep till you realize it's just boring.

Succeeding in failure
Bob Mould
Bob Mould
Rykodisc

"This one is for me," reads the fine print, which indicates he played every instrument and wrote every song. But what he means, in the end, is Bob Mould is the question mark and exclamation point at the end of a chapter in his artistic and public life; if his former homeboy Paul Westerberg is content to write his silly love songs and finds light in the hollow of an acoustic guitar, then Mould isn't afraid to continue digging in the dark with bare hands.

Bob Mould is the autobiography of the artist who has existed on the fringes for 15 years, stuck between damnation and success; he's arrogant and self-loathing all at once, the failure ("I'm sick of myself/Sick of/Everything I am") and bitterness ("There's other icons flying higher now/As you grab for the past/You know it won't last") and indignation ("Everything you hate is everything that you created") blending into an absorbing portrait of self-absorption.

There's a fine line between pity and compassion, and Mould doesn't do much to separate the two: The betrayal songs are the most universal and often the most dramatic ("You are not the person/I expected to grow old with"), but it's the moments when he offers a glimpse of the artist as a middle-aged man that are the most revelatory. After all, nothing fascinates like failure, even when it's our own.

--Robert Wilonsky

 
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