It's been several days since I finished reading Bob Mould's autobiography, See a Little Light, and still I don't know what to make of it. Here is one of indie music's all-time greatest rockers, the lead of not one but two excellent bands (Husker Du and Sugar), a man who still makes good music now well into his 50s ... and two-thirds of the way through the book I was convinced that this was the single most boring rock biography that it would be possible to write. Mould takes pride in (some of) the music created as Husker Du - and he certainly takes credit for all of it - but he writes about music as if it was his profession, not his passion. I started off feeling that he'd have been better suited to be an accountant or an engineer and just chose music because it was something he was good at. I want to use the word "sellout" but even that isn't right - how can you be a sellout when you never had any convictions to begin with? When Husker Du jumped from an indie to a major record label Mould needed no prodding from the label to become corporate-ized. For example, he took it upon himself, at his own initiative, to have "briefings" with his bandmates about the press and "stay[ing] on course." Later on he talks about how Husker Du "worked hard for years to build our brand." I was reading the autobiography of a marketing executive posing as an indie rock god! It's actually hard to say that the book itself was boring; what was boring was Mould himself.
Through the first solo years and the Sugar years (by which time Mould had also stopped drinking) things did not get any better. Suddenly though, as Mould's life turned around, so did his autobiography. Mould learns how to be a gay man in New York City - not just how to be out as a homosexual, but how to live what he came to see as the gay NYC lifestyle. With that, we have the beginning of a fascinating life journey. At one point he writes, "Here I am in the West Village at the age of thirty-eight, finally experiencing and learning this stuff. I felt like Rip Van Winkle - I'd been asleep for years." It's startling how accurate that quote is. The sleepiness was well established through the first 2/3 of the book and for the rest of the way, Mould would be alive. This coincided with his discovery of electronica, which seems to be the one genre of music he is truly passionate about. From there Mould meets a new boyfriend, moves to D.C., puts out more records, starts a dance club, gets involved in professional wrestling ... he packs a lot of life into the post-2002 years. As he does so he comes to certain realizations about his past: his childhood, the music he made in his youth, the friends and boyfriends and bandmates he had - miraculously, Mould turns a lost book into a very interesting memoir.
Now that I've written this review, I still don't know what to make of the book. Compared to recent musician autobiographies that I've read, it lacks the passion of Morrissey's Autobiography, and the earnestness and humor of Peter Hook's Unknown Pleasures. I don't know if Mould was holding back or if this is all he had to give. Huge fans of the man may want to read it (though risk having your hero turned into something you didn't expect). Everyone else may want to find a more interesting subject.