August 25, 2011 at 1:04 pm EDT | by Terri Schlichenmeyer
Breaking the Mould

‘See a Little Light: The Trail of Rage and Melody’
by Bob Mould with Michael Azerrad
404 pages

D.C. gays know Bob Mould from his DJ work at the Blowoff parties he spins with Richard Morel. If that’s all you know of Mould, his new autobiography fleshes out his impressive musical backstory. (Image courtesy of Little, Brown and Co.)

It all started with “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.”

It continued with a spider, the ABCs, and being a little teapot. From there, you embraced what your older siblings listened to until you developed your own musical tastes. You had records, moved to tape, CD, and now your iPod is full.

The point is, you’ve never been without your tunes. But what about the people who make the music you love? In the new book “See a Little Light” by Bob Mould (with Michael Azerrad), you’ll learn about one man’s life in song.

Born in 1960 in the northernmost end of New York, Bob Mould entered a family wracked with grief: just before Mould was born, an elder brother died of kidney cancer. Mould surmises that the timing of his birth resulted in his being a “golden” child, the family peacekeeper who sidestepped his father’s physical and psychological abuse.

“As a child,” he writes, “music was my escape.”

Mould’s father, surprisingly indulgent, bought his son guitars and Mould taught himself to play chords and to create.

By the time he entered high school, Mould knew that he had to get out of New York to get away from his family. He also knew he was “different” and that being gay would be a problem in his small hometown. He applied for and entered college in Minnesota where he started taking serious guitar lessons. He also started drinking heavily and displaying his frustration in a punk rock band.

Named after a children’s game, Hüsker Dü performed nationally and internationally, but Mould muses that perhaps youth was against them. He seemed to have a love-hate relationship with his bandmates and though he had become the band’s leader, there were resentments and accusations and the band split.

But there were other bands and there were other loves than music, as Mould grew and learned to channel the rage inside him and the anger that volcanoed from it.

“I spent two years rebuilding and reinventing myself,” Mould writes. “Now that I’ve integrated who I am and what I do, I finally feel whole.”

Remember the ‘80s, punk rock, angry lyrics and mosh pits? If you do, with fondness, then you’ll love this book. For most readers, though, “See a Little Light” is going to be a struggle.

Author Bob Mould spends a lot of time on a litany of clubs, recording studios, musicians and locales he played some 30 years ago — which is fine if you were a fellow musician or a rabid, hardcore fan. This part of the book goes on endlessly which makes for a tedious amount of detail.

But Mould shines when writing about his personal life though he’s strangely dismissive and abrupt with former loves, bandmates and even with family. The book comes alive when he shares private anecdotes. More would have helped sustain interest, for it’s in those moments when you feel you’re getting to know memoirist.

If you were heavy into the punk scene, “See a Little Light” is great. Others will likely find it out of tune.


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