See a Little Light: The Trail of Rage and Melody by Bob Mould with Michael Azerrad
Published by: Little, Brown & Company
Published on: June 15, 2011
Page Count: 416
My Reading Format: Audiobook sent to me for review from Hachette Audio.
Audiobook Published by: Hachette Audio
Narrator: Bob Mould
Audiobook Length: 12 hours 34 minutes
Available Formats: Hardcover, eBook and Audiobook
Coming from a dysfunctional home is so often a recipe for disaster. It’s refreshing when a person who grew up in a less than ideal home makes good. This is the case with Bob Mould. Shortly after he was born, Mould’s older brother passed away. This loss precipitated his father’s decline into alcoholism and abuse. Although his mother and sister were the primary targets, his childhood was stressful and uncomfortable. Mould turned to music. His interest and natural talent led him down a path that started with his punk rock band Hüsker Dü and continues to this day with his work as a singer/songwriter as well as DJing dance music parties. This isn’t to say that Mould left his upper New York hometown without a glitch. He had demons of his own to overcome in order find himself and his place in the homosexual community. See a Little Light gives his fans and music lovers unflinching insight into his journey.
As much as I would love for it to have been otherwise, Hüsker Dü was a band before my time. Although many of the artists who have meant so much to me list them as an influence, punk music was never something I listened to more than casually. When my musical tastes matured, it was what followed punk that captured my heart and imagination. I did not personally become aware of Bob Mould or his work until Sugar’s Copper Blue. I bought it with birthday money from my 21st birthday and treasured it. It was for this reason that I See a Little Light was a must for me. My 21st year wasn’t my easiest. My heart was broken, my uncle committed suicide and I was absolutely miserable at the prospect of beginning a teaching career. When I look back at my early adulthood, Sugar is most definitely there. It was somewhat of a mess and Copper Blue was one of my go-to albums during that time. Because it meant so much to me, listening to Mould recall recording that album and forming Sugar was one of the highlights of this audiobook.
Bob Mould may be an extremely talented musician, but See a Little Light was about much more than his success in the music industry. His sexuality and his relationships are central to who he is as a man, let alone as a musician. His article in Spin magazine, for all of the hoopla about his “I am not a freak” statement, was eye opening for this young Midwestern girl. I wasn’t unduly shocked that Bob Mould was gay. I never gave his love life much thought beforehand. What shocked me was that he was a man who rocked as hard if not harder than anyone else I listened to and he was gay. I’m embarrassed to admit to this misconception today, but before Bob Mould, homosexual men were flamboyant people such as Liberace, the Village People or Boy George.
Bob Mould is painfully honest about his sex life, proving that love and lifestyle are minefields for everyone. His relationship during Hüsker Dü was not out of the ordinary for people in their earlier 20s. It was the second half of his relationship with Kevin O’Neill that was so difficult to watch. It’s unfortunate that one can’t see one’s relationships objectively at the time. It’s amazing what humans, be they gay or straight, will do to keep a miserable relationship together. Love and the desperate grasp at what was once love is universal. While there were a couple instances of too much information, Mould’s “late bloomer” discovery of single life as a gay man was interesting enlightening. Since so much of what he wrote about was serious, it was refreshing to see him liberated and satisfied.
I can not imagine this book being narrating by anyone other than Bob Mould, but he is not a natural narrator. He is at his best when he is passionate. When he discussed his discovery of the Ramones and his love of punk music, it was as if you were sitting right next to him, catching the fever right along with him. Even his interest in professional wrestling reached out through his words. When he was discussing more serious and sometimes hurtful events, his narration wasn’t as polished. There were often times that he sighed and spoke too quickly at the end of sentences. While this wouldn’t have worked for me at all in another book, it lent credence to Mould’s professed inability to talk openly and effectively about difficult things. It always stood out, but it provided me with a sense of the artist I wouldn’t have otherwise gotten had I read the book in print.
Everything I expected and wanted from this memoir were there. It provided a look at what makes Mould tick as an artist, I learned about the origins of some of my favorite music from my early 20s, and he included some interesting tidbits of information about some of my other favorite musicians. This memoir, however, is much more than a simple record of an interesting time in music history. It’s the story of how a successful man with troubled beginnings and a few vices to overcome approached middle life. He continues to grow and expand. He made a place for himself in his community and discovered a love for dance music. He most definitely didn’t settle in to the patterns already set in place. He retained what worked for him and dropped what did not. I’m not at all sure this is what he intended, but that meant a lot to me as a reader approaching her 40th birthday.
In the past year, there have been several high profile rock star memoirs. Where Keith Richards and Steven Tyler were barely a blip on my radar, Bob Mould’s book was like a blazing neon sign. Where his work with Sugar was the music I needed at that time in my life, See a Little Light was the right memoir for me to read now. What might have made me scoff in a self-help book or roll my eyes at in light fiction hit home for me in this venue. I wanted to listen to this book because Bob Mould is an incredible musician who affected me and continues to influence some of the most amazing bands today. I choose to recommend See a Little Light because there is so much more to him and to his story than just that.