With over 30 successful years in the music industry, Husker Du and Sugar frontman Bob Mould finally tells us the story - in his own words. See a Little Light: The Trail of Rage and Melody, Mould's autobiography, was released in June of this year. Mould fans will appreciate the candor of the book. One walks away from the book feeling that Mould, in typical Mould fashion, hasn't left anything out and certainly didn't pen the kind of self congratulatory boasting books that other rock stars have been known to do.
Chronicling his childhood in Malone, NY, the success and breakup of Husker Du and Sugar, as well as Mould's expansive solo projects, See a Little Light has one very consistent theme: Mould's relentless work ethic. Touring with a van and a bottle of water, Mould passed up the lavish rock star life and kept focused on the music. "My business philosophy boils down to three basic points: don't promise what you can't deliver, know what you're worth, and show up on time."
Mould gives us great details about the breakup of Husker Du, and the rocky relationship between Mould and Grant Hart. If Husker Du fans are still holding out hope for a reunion, Mould is pretty clear that won't happen. "If you have an original ticket stub dated 1979-1987 you saw Husker Du. If not, you missed out."
For me, the book rekindled my love for Sugar, specifically the Copper Blue record. On the subject of Sugar, Mould stated: "I tend to be identified most with Husker Du, because that's where I started. But few know the half of how much fun I had with Sugar. Husker Du was an eight-year ground war that started with me and some guy smoking Thai stick in the basement of a record store, and ended with that guy's mom suggesting we should only play on weekends. Sugar, in twelve months, went from three men building a stage extension out of road cases for a punk rock show in Morgantown, West Virginia, to playing gigantic European festivals with Metallica. Which part of my life do you think I enjoyed more? Sugar was intense. The band was not enormous, but we ere mighty lose to the top. We had a good view of the valley below."
Much of the book catalogs Mould's struggle with coming to terms with his homosexuality. The shocker for me isn't that Mould is gay, it's how candidly he talks about it and his journey to fit into both the punk rock and gay communities. Of the 90's Spin article that famously outted him, Mould states: "I wasn't going to let one interview, or a handful of Bible Belt radio stations, decide the fate of my music."
Mould writing style mirrors his music - he comes right out and says it, then moves on quickly to the next story or subject. He's direct. He's to the point. He's keenly in touch with his feelings and not afraid to say exactly what's on his mind. Again, this is clearly not a glamorous rock star documentary. I've read other rock and roll autobiographies where the author is telling stories of excess in a "don't you wish you were me" sort of manner. Mould is the opposite. He's so painfully honest about his humble life, his failed relationships, and his quest to find peace with himself that you feel bad for him.
A must read for any Mould/Sugar/Husker Du fans, See a Little Light is a fantastic read. Mould credits Michael Azerrand with helping him write the book. Azerrand penned the famous Our Band Could Be Your Life, which chronicles the early American indie music space. I read Our Band years ago and loved it, specifically the chapter on Husker Du - but See a Little Light surpasses the small glimpse given to us by Azerrand and tells us the whole story - from the eyes of the guy who lived it.