I used to own this on CD; a couple of times actually, or maybe the first time, my introduction, was via a dubbed cassette from a friend. Yeah, that’s more likely. Anyway, until a couple of months ago, when I downloaded it, I hadn’t heard Workbook in years. Years. I found a cheap used vinyl copy as well and slowly we’ve begun to get reacquainted. But on different terms—as I’m no longer a teenager listening in my car on the way to high school in the mornings. Relationships, no matter the kind, change and are always in flux. This is just as true for albums.
Immediate (second) impression: what a heavy fucking album. And I don’t just mean the lyrical portion, which is obvious, but the underlying tone itself: the string arrangements, the acoustic guitars, the haunting vocal overdubs, Mould’s tortured howls—everything. To be completely honest, revisiting this album has been a fairly maudlin experience. It hones in and touches that sweet spot residing somewhere between nostalgia and outright depressing. It’s heartbreak, it’s a quarter after midnight with time on your hands, it’s the last drag. But in the best way. Not that Workbook has ever been a cheerful listen, but the album bears an emotional weight to it now that I was not capable of grasping at 16 or 17—or possibly even in my early twenties for that matter.
If given 20 minutes to freely interview Mould (about anything) it is the backstory of this album, not that of Hüsker Dü or Sugar, that I would immediately delve into. And if given the same opportunity fifteen years ago? I’m pretty sure all I would have wanted to discuss was he and Grant Hart’s songwriting relationship around the making of Candy Apple Grey/Warehouse; oh, and maybe the Beaster ep. But as I said, relationships, no matter the kind, change.
And Bob, if your ever in L.A. and want to rap about Workbook, drinks are on me.