They Say It’s Your Birthday celebrates an artist’s special day with other people singing his or her songs. Let others do the work for a while. Happy birthday!
A quarter of a century has gone by since Husker Du’s final drumbeat, and Bob Mould has spent those twenty-five years repeatedly disproving F. Scott Fitzgerald’s famous quote about there being no second acts in American lives. To recount: his band Sugar marked his most commercially successful period of his career; he dabbled in acoustic and electronica; he worked as a live DJ; he wrote scripts in professional wrestling; he wrote a well-received autobiography, See a Little Light; he wrote the theme to The Daily Show. Best of all, he never stopped being Bob Mould.
It’s not easy to narrow down our focus on Mould’s career, but in honor of his 53rd birthday, the least we could do was try. Here are five covers of Mould-penned songs, most of them quite different from their origins, proving that his songs are strong enough to not only withstand any treatment, but to blossom under it.
MP3: Mark Kozelek – Celebrated Summer (Husker Du cover)
“Love and hate was in the air, like pollen from a flower.” One of the all-time greatest opening lines in rock music history appears in Husker Du’s “Celebrated Summer,” from their classic New Day Rising. You can be forgiven for not quite picking up on what Mould was roaring – just one more reason to be glad the Red House Painters’ Mark Kozelek covered the song on The Finally LP, drawing back the curtain to reveal the song’s yearning for the past, both its good and its bad.
MP3: Heidi Berry – Up in the Air (Husker Du cover)
Heidi Berry is a singer whose haunting, underrated work is being forgotten much too fast for the liking of anyone who’s ever heard her sing. After you hear her beautiful treatment of “Up in the Air,” from Husker Du’s swan song Warehouse: Songs and Stories, you owe it to yourself to learn more about her and listen to more of her work. You’ll not be sorry.
MP3: North Atlantic Oscillation – One Good Reason (Bob Mould cover)
North Atlantic Oscillation is a post-prog trio from the UK. They covered “One Good Reason” from Mould’s second solo album, Black Sheets of Rain, and released it as a B-side. Mould clearly liked it – he called it a “very good reading” and had NAO support him on his UK tour dates this past spring. One listen and you’ll know what he appreciated.
MP3: Ryan Adams – Black Sheets of Rain (Bob Mould cover)
In 2011 there was a tribute concert for Mould at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, which can now be seen online. One highlight came when Ryan Adams did solo acoustic performances of two Mould songs; one was the title track of that second solo album. This is a different rendition, performed a month later and 3,000 miles away, but it’ll give you a sense of his show-stopping abilities.
MP3: The Decemberists – If I Can’t Change Your Mind (Sugar cover)
When the AV Club asked Mould to cover a song for their Undercover series, he argued that his version of “If I Can’t Change Your Mind” was a cover, even though he wrote it, because it was his band Sugar that did it first, not him. It was a shaky argument, but nobody was going to tell him no. Likewise, when the Decemberists decided that was the song they wanted to cover, the AV Club people wisely stepped aside and let them have at it, in five-man acoustic band mode.
Visit Bob Mould at his website.