As one of the two frontmen for Minneapolis alt-rock legends Hüsker Dü, Bob Mould earned enough respect and recognition to kickstart a successful solo career, which in turn allowed him the opportunity to form the short-lived but much loved Sugar. There’s more to Mould than just his music, though, and his memoir, See a Little Light: The Trail of Rage and Melody, provides a forum for him to open up about his personal life as well as a few of his less heralded career sidebars, such his stint as a WCW scriptwriter. Yes, really.
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This is not to suggest that Mould has never opened up before. In addition to composing many an entry in his now mostly abandoned blog Boblog, his insights proved invaluable to Michael Azerrad’s history of Hüsker Dü in Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes from the American Indie Underground 1981-1991, a tale which Azerrad told so well that Mould selected him to serve as his collaborator on See a Little Light. But while there’s some inevitable crossover between their last literary collaboration, See a Little Light serves as an opportunity for Mould to flesh out the well-established facts about the life and times of Hüsker Dü with more of his side of the story.
In addition to revealing the trying times he experienced growing up with an emotionally explosive father and a submissive mother, Mould details the path that led him from his hometown of Malone, N.Y., to the City of Lakes and the collaboration with bandmates Grant Hart and Greg Norton that would last for the better part of a decade. Although it’s sad that the book contains a definitive pronouncement on a possible reunion of the trio (“If you have an original ticket stub dated 1979-1987, you saw Hüsker Dü; if not, you missed out”), Mould’s description of Hart’s self-destructive behavior and Norton’s declining interest in everything about the music but the resulting paychecks provide ample clarification as to why he’d rather leave the band’s legacy just the way it is.
(For what it’s worth, no such statement is made in regards to the idea of seeing Sugar reunite, but given Mould’s admission about his bungling of that band’s dissolution, it seems unlikely that Malcolm Travis will be signing up anytime soon.)
Similar frankness permeates the discussion of Mould’s musical efforts over the years, giving a great deal of insight into the songwriting and recording process as well as the performances that invariably followed the records’ release, but he has almost as much to say about his sexuality, a thread which runs throughout the book, starting with a relatively no-holds-barred preface which takes place in “a clothing-optional resort strictly for men.” While the section successfully sets the stage for Mould’s tendency to slip back and forth between amusing anecdotes and serious stories, his story may prove more affecting to those who skip straight to chapter one and follow the same gradual path that he did as he determined his sexuality, quietly fumbled his way into his first proper relationship with another man, and, over the course of many years living under the radar, eventually came into his own as a member of the gay community.
Given Azerrad’s credentials and Mould’s discography, it’s perhaps a given that music fans will find the book enthralling. See a Little Light, however, does more than merely detail the evolution of an artist, painting an emotional picture of his personal growth as well. Given how much Mould has decided to open up, his efforts deserve an audience well beyond that of the typical rock-bio reader.
Will Harris is a staff writer with Popdose.com, as well as a regular contributor to The Virginian-Pilot, in Norfolk, Va., and an associate editor for the web magazine Bullz-Eye.com. He loves his wife, cherishes his daughter and now accepts PayPal.