Compositions for the Young & Old, Pt. 18 | LoudBomb, “Long Playing Grooves” (2002)

Following up the rock/techno hybrid Modulate, Bob unleashes an album of pure electronica under his anagram nom de DJ.

 

 
 
Jason: At the same time Bob was plotting the misfire that is Modulate, he was also crafting songs for an album of more pure electronica, to be released under the nom de DJ LoudBomb (an anagram of “Bob Mould”). The release of the sole LoudBomb album followed Modulate by just two weeks, but the difference between the two albums is huge. Where Modulate was Bob Mould trying (and ultimately failing) to make a “Bob Mould electronica album,” Long Playing Grooves is a legit successful electronica album, though one with pretty much all traces of Bob Mouldiness removed.
Mike: I had a song from Long Playing Grooves playing here at work, then played something off of Silver Age next and a coworker said, “No way that is the same guy.”
It’s is so much more enjoyable to listen to than Modulate. It’s not overly complicated, or filled with every beep and sound you can cram onto a dance song. It’s good background music. Not overly heavy either, which helps.
One huge aspect that is so much better here than on Modulate is there is melody here, not just him making a bunch of noises over a beat. There seems to be a sense of purpose for every sound or drum beat. This is not assaulting to the ears like some of Modulate was as it was just so busy and clumsy. This is smooth and flows so much better. And I have to always check that this really is Bob Mould, the same guy that screamed out “Something I Learned Today” and “Biggest Lie.” He really does have a good sense of orchestration here. I so wish this happened on Modulate.
He explores a lot of different areas of electronica here, including more trance-like numbers like “We Need the Truth” and “NumberNine.”
Jason: Yeah, Long Playing Grooves is almost like a sampler of electronica genres, circa 2002. The opener “Theme (It’s a Perfect Day)” is spacious and trancey, and reminds me a bit of Dirty Vegas. The follow-up, “Guys Like You,” is more on the pop side of things, and is pretty much a dead ringer for Daft Punk’s “Digital Love.” And then the third track, “Devil v. Angel,” has that amped up, skittering drumbeat and the screeching vocals and is much more aggro. And yet despite the variety, all three of those tracks are competently made and actually quite appealing. And, as a DJ mix, they fit together surprisingly well, too.
Mike: The down tempo tracks, yeah, Dirty Vegas. I couldn’t think of who it really reminded me of.
Jason: In his autobio, I think he mentions Daft Punk as a primary influence, and Moby as well.
Mike: This really is great background music. It might be the mood I’m in today, but I’m enjoying this a lot more than I remember I ever did before.
Jason: Yeah, the LoudBomb stuff isn’t something that’s destined for the dance floor, nor is it reinventing electronica music from an outsider’s perspective. But it’s great background music, especially for just chilling around your house and reading, for example. You wouldn’t be shocked to hear this played as dinner music at a hip sushi restaurant, especially the instrumental “The Fall Collection.” Total chillout music. It actually sounds like something you might here on a Pizzicato Five song.
While I find LPG to be a pleasant listen, the one thing I find most odd about it is that virtually none of these songs have choruses. Where are the hooks? Bob is generally a machine when it comes to catchy choruses, but other than “Guys Like You” and “This Is the Way I Want It,” the lyrics and arrangements don’t really have choruses at all. That lack of hooks makes the album less memorable than it could have been, I think. And also kind of unusual for an electronica album. Daft Punk would never put out this many songs without hooks.
Mike: Well, with pure techno albums, they are generally hookless. Now, when artists started making songs and adding eletronica elements to them, that’s when you started seeing hooks, choruses, your standard song structures. I’m used to most dance and electronica not having those so it wasn’t so much an issue for me.
DOGS & PONIES
Jason: Picking out Dogs & Ponies on this album almost feels a little unnecessary, because all of the songs generally hit the same chilled out vibe that makes for good background music. Nothing here is completely objectionable and, as background music, nothing is “off” enough to jolt its way into the foreground in an unappealing way.
Mike: True, true. Nothing here that I would say is outright bad.It’s more a mood piece for me. It’s not something I’m going to listen over and over and over to connect with and find hidden meanings in. Some songs I do like more than others. “Devil v. Angel,” “NumberNine,” and “Heaven’s On Fire,” I particularly like.
Jason: My favorites are probably the opening pair, the Dirty Vegas-y “Theme (It’s a Perfect Day)” and the Daft Punk Lite of “Guys Like You,” which is a pretty cute little electro-pop ditty about an unrequited crush.
“NumberNine” is one I liked a lot as well, especially those very new wave-y synths. “Devil v. Angel” is the only one that had to grow on me a little bit, mostly because of the screechy effect on the vocals.
As for my Dogs… Again, nothing here is wholly objectionable, but a few don’t quite hit home for me. “This Is the Way I Want It” is so ethereal, it almost feels like it’s not there. I don’t like the vocals on “We Need the Truth,” though it’s got a nice, kinda bluesy guitar solo (the only one on the album, I think) slipped in toward the end there. “Helium” is a decent album closer musically, but the vocals are pushed up in the mix and the lyrics aren’t really worth drawing attention to. “I suck you in by using helium/ I spit you out like chewed up bubblegum.” Uh, what?
Mike: That’s, um, yeah. That’s a bad mental image.
FINAL GRADES
Mike: Long Playing Grooves really does wash away the egregious errors he made on Modulate and shows he can make a very competent electronica album.
Jason: BUT THEY WERE MADE AT THE SAME TIME! That’s what’s so weird to me.
Mike: I know, that the thing that boggles my mind. How can you create this nice, lush-sounding LP and that just awful sounding thing at the same time. How are you so Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde here?
Jason: It’s almost like Modulate was his training wheels material and LPG was him kicking off those training wheels and running with it in a much more assured fashion. But the thing is, LPG is empirically a much, much better album. So why was the inferior album released under Bob’s name, and given the bigger promotional push? Why was the superior album given a minimal release and sold only/mostly at live shows? It doesn’t make sense.
Mike: Both great questions.
Jason: Is it just because Modulate had rock guitars on it, so he figured maybe his fans would be more amenable to it?
Mike: If he really wanted to shake things up and really show people he’s not just this dour guy with a guitar, he should have done it the other way.
Jason: I know it’s Monday morning quarterbacking, but I often wonder if “Bob the electronica artist” would have succeeded more if Modulate hadn’t been released at all, and LoudBomb had been given the spotlight and pushed as its own entity. Or at least something like Paul McCartney releasing his electronica albums as the Fireman and letting them succeed or fail on their own merits instead of being tied in with the release of Modulate.
Because the way it was marketed, it basically sounded like Modulate is the transition to the New Bob, and Long Playing Grooves is even further along in the same direction, or in other words, “If you like Modulate, you’ll love LoudBomb!” But no one really liked Modulate, so probably a lot of people that would have enjoyed LoudBomb never bothered to hear it.
Mike: Kinda what I was thinking. Maybe it’s for the best, since he returned back to rock
Overall, even though it’s well done, I would give this a C. It’s not a genre I’m well versed in, nor one I seek out outside of a rare song or two. It’s not my thing and Bob is strongest doing other things. As with Modulate, I do appreciate that he’s trying something different and trying to grow as an artist, but it doesn’t mean I have to like what I hear. This is light years better than Modulate, though, thankfully. He does add elements of his little experiment here to later songs which add some different elements to his repertoire, but he doesn’t ever go full commando like this and make another exclusive electronica album. (2006’s Blowoff is a good mix of both sides of Bob.)
Jason: I’d give this a C+. It is a solid album all around, though. I guess I look at the letter grades as As are “everyone should own this,” Bs as “if you liked the A stuff, you’ll like these almost just as much,” and Cs and below as the stuff to explore last or the stuff just for diehards. Long Playing Grooves is good—and yes, a HUGE improvement over Modulate—but it’s not remarkable enough to be saying “Yes, you should seek this out” unless you have a particular interest in electronic music.
Planned as a sort of "Workbook 2," a three-year gestation period results in a return to form of sorts on 2005’s Body of Song. 

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