"City Lights (Days Go By)" - Bob Mould
There's something uncharacteristically sprightly and limber about this new song from one of indie rock's pioneers. It's not just that vibe-like synth line in the intro (although that's pretty darned sprightly); and it's not just that he's singing in his more nimble upper register rather than that forbidding lower register of his; it's really the whole melodic structure and instrumental framework that lends this song a refreshing openness that Mould's work hasn't had, from what I've heard of it over the years.
I'm going to have a hard time explaining this one, but Mould has tended previously to write songs that, whatever their various merits, seemed mired in very specific sorts of chord changes and melodic patterns. Right from the start, "City Lights" breaks free with its opening melody--a melody that starts high and descends, and a melody that not only features but begins with held notes (the "Days go by" part, with each word held for two beats). It's a very small thing that nonetheless generates a notable aural change for Mould, who typically writes music directly to the lyrics, one note for each syllable except maybe at the end of the line. Even as the song unfolds through some turns and changes that are distinctly Mouldian (listen for instance to the chorus, that interval he describes at 1:28 as he hits the word "need": now that's Bob Mould), the ongoing sense of flow and uplift has him sounding oddly Paul Weller-like. (Who has his own issues, come to think of it, when it comes to being mired in a sonic rut, but never mind.) Even with that drone that Mould manages to imply via the production--there's actually not one particular instrument droning, but it somehow feels like there is--this song moves, and buoyantly.
"City Lights (Days Go By)" is a song from the new CD, Life and Times, to be released next month on Anti Records. MP3 via Spinner.