WHAT Bob Mould - Work Book
WHEN Kensington Park, London - 1989
I remember sitting in the dappled sunshine under a tree in Kensington Park, London, and hearing ‘Workbook’ for the first time. As his first post-Hüsker Dü work, there was a lot riding on it.
The opening lines:
“Wishing well runs wet and dry
I wish for things i never had
Surrounds and wells up in my eyes
The screaming voice, it lies” (Wishing Well)
After that, it only gets more traumatic. “Workbook” is an austere and frequently desperate record fuelled by deceit, bitterness and life changing events. It’s an emotional dry heave that wrestles for catharsis but more often comes off as a pitch-black exorcism. Acoustic guitars just shouldn’t sound this… caustic.
“Feeling so abused, well, sometimes
Life can be so cruel” (Lonely Afternoon)
After the images of ‘Big Bob’ that existed during Hüsker Dü’s lifetime, it was a real shock seeing the portrait on the back of the album (which is why I’ve included in this post). In retrospect, it’s a pretty clear warning shot of the singular, near-monastic journey he’d engaged in. Physically and materially stripped back, he sits alone in a bare room. He looks like he’s joined a cult or had a breakdown. Maybe both. The portrait is an unflinching, honest and uncomfortable as the album. He's stripped everything back to the bone and offers up what's left.
And in 2014, pretty much 25 years to the day I first heard it, I sat under the same tree in Kensington Park and listened to the anniversary edition. Time hasn’t reduced its pain or power.
“Oh well, I get disillusioned with it all
Just throw my hands up to the sky and say
Oh Lord, what happened? What happened
To make things run this way?” (Brasilia Crossed With Trenton)