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Big butch pop

Big butch pop


Alt-rocker Bob Mould and electronica whiz Richard Morel join forces for a record that gets everyone's freak on

Bob Mould first found renown as the singer-guitarist in punk trio Husker Du, then fronting '90s alt-rock faves Sugar. Richard Morel is a DJ-producer with A-list remix credits (New Order, Depeche Mode, Nelly Furtado). But putting either of these openly gay men in a neat little stylistic box? Impossible, especially after listening to the self-titled debut from their collaborative recording project, Blowoff.

The album kicks off with "Hormone Love," a jolt of electric guitar and vocal harmonies reminiscent of '60s acts like the Byrds, propelled by a sensual midtempo beat. From there, the dozen originals keep making twists and turns, moving through the slow and trippy "Lemonade" to the percolating "Saturday Night All the Time," which layers husky singing over a low-slung, groovy melody that's equal parts sinister and summery.

Morel first came to the rocker's attention in 2002, even as Mould was testing his own parameters. "I had been spending 2-1/2 years in a vacuum, trying to merge electronics with guitars and pop music. Then I heard [Morel's album] Queen of the Highway, and I was like, 'There it is.' The work was strong and masculine but also created by a homosexual."

Mutual friends introduced them, and when Mould relocated to Washington, D.C., he and Morel became tight, launching a small party called Blowoff. Starting as a weekly event in a tiny basement bar of the D.C. rock venue the 9:30 Club, the party eventually became one of the hottest monthlies on the East Coast (albeit in the much bigger upstairs showroom).

Meanwhile, Mould and Morel also began writing music together. Part of the inspiration came from their party. "When you're doing an event where you're playing records, you get very keyed into what you want to hear, so you start making records that you not only enjoy listening to but that you want to play out," observes Morel. More important, Mould says, what bonded them was their fundamental musical loves: "Good guitars, the craft of songwriting, and the history and tradition of the last 40 years of pop music."

These days, Blowoff the party usually features a set from Blowoff the band, with both men singing and playing live guitar. But no matter what incarnation Blowoff takes, the duo are wary of scrutinizing what makes it all click too closely. "Blowoff is something we built from zero," concludes Mould. "We didn't start a club night to be part of a scene. We did it so we could play music and make friends. And as that continued to grow, that informed what happened in the recording studio. And it all just keeps feeding on itself...probably in ways I don't even realize."

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