365 Days of Songs (2012)

Bob Mould, “The Descent”


1/29/20231 min read

This is an amazingly intricate song that feels utterly natural. The chords aren't intricate, nor is the arrangement, playing, etc., but Bob Mould builds a song out of much more than the usual verse/chorus/bridge structure. This song has those elements, plus:

     · The opening which also leads in and out of the verses, as well as breaking each verse into two pairs of lines

     · A pre-chorus

     · A segment that lands where you would expect the first chorus to go, which we might call a false chorus

     · And the guitar solo, which itself plays out over an entirely new chord sequence.

That’s seven distinct parts of the song. But everything fits! This is a master songwriter at work. “The Descent” is four minutes long with no fat. The double chorus at the end creates an incredible lift and payoff: hairs-standing-on-the-back-of-the-neck stuff that songwriters dream of. (Bob has an enviable number of those moments in his catalog.)

Songwriters are musical architects. We build houses out of melodies, chords, lyrics, parts, and sounds. The beauty of it is that no two of these musical houses are exactly the same. Not every song comes with all the rooms you expect! Some come with secret passageways. Sometimes songwriters put the kitchen where you'd expect to find the bathroom and put the attic in the basement.

But if the song works, all that matters are the rooms you built with melody and words. All that matters is the structure you created from riffs, versus, choruses, bridges, guitar solos, codas… even things you'd be hard pressed to give a name to. You can fashion an entrancing one room house out of four chords, a melody, and a few words. You can create a mansion out of a series of song fragments. You can fall back on the familiar, the tried and true. You can keep it as it is, or give it a new spin. You can dress the same old body up in new clothes.