Breaking the Mould

By Terri Schlichenmeyer

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Posted September 15, 2011 in Arts & Culture

It all started with “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.”

It continued with a spider, the ABCs and being a little teapot. From there, you embraced what your older siblings listened to until you developed your own musical tastes. You had records, moved to tape, CD, and now your iPod is full.

The point is you’ve never been without your tunes. But what about the people who make the music you love?  In the new book See a Little Light by Bob Mould (with Michael Azerrad), you’ll learn about one man’s life in song.

Born in 1960 in the northernmost end of New York, Bob Mould entered a family wracked with grief: just before Mould was born, an elder brother died of kidney cancer. Mould surmises that the timing of his birth resulted in his being a “golden” child, the family peacekeeper who sidestepped his father’s physical and psychological abuse.

“As a child,” he says, “music was my escape.”

Mould’s father, surprisingly indulgent, bought his son guitars and Mould taught himself to play chords and to create.

By the time he entered high school, Mould knew that he had to get out of New York to get away from his family. He also knew he was “different,” and that being gay would be a problem in his small hometown. He applied for and entered college in Minnesota where he started taking serious guitar lessons, he started drinking heavily, he started displaying his frustration and he started a punk rock band.

Named after a children’s game, Hüsker Dü performed nationally and internationally, but Mould muses that perhaps youth was against them. He seemed to have a love-hate relationship with his bandmates, and though he had become the band’s leader, there were resentments and accusations and the band split.

But there were other bands and there were other loves than music, as Mould grew and learned to channel the rage inside him and the anger that volcanoed from it.

“I spent two years rebuilding and reinventing myself,” says Mould. “Now that I’ve integrated who I am and what I do, I finally feel whole.”

Remember the ’80s, punk rock, angry lyrics, and mosh pits? If you do, with fondness, then you’ll love this book. For most readers, though, See a Little Light is going to be a struggle.

Author Bob Mould spends a lot of time on a litany of clubs, recording studios, musicians, and locales he played some 30 years ago—which is fine if you were a fellow musician or a rabid, hardcore fan. This part of the book goes on . . . and on . . . and on, relentlessness and relatively esoteric in nature.

Admittedly, Mould shines when writing about his personal life but even so, he’s strangely dismissive and abrupt with former loves, bandmates and even with family. I enjoyed the occasional private tale, unfortunately of which there were not enough.

Overall, I think See a Little Light is great, but only if you were heavy into the punk scene. For most readers, though, this book is way out of tune.

See a Little Light: The Trail of Rage and Melody by Bob Mould with Michael Azerrad. Little, Brown and Company, hardcover, 404 pages. List price $24.99.


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