Ladies and germs! May we present Daniel Couch and Walter Biggins who will pen the 33 1/3 on Bob Mould’s 1989 album Workbook. This book is one of 16 new titles in the 33 1/3 series.
Give it a good long listen!
We caught up with Walter and Daniel to learn more about their listening and reading habits.
33 1/3: What was your favorite book or record store growing up?
DC: The first time Walter and I worked together was the summer between our junior and senior years of high school when we lazily painted his parents’ home in East Dallas. Walter had just bought Bee Thousand by Guided by Voices, and I don’t think we listened to anything else all summer. On our lunch break, we’d scarf down something cheap and fast and then spend the few remaining minutes browsing the used racks of the now defunct CD World (Dallas, Texas). It was one of the few places in town where you could listen to any CD in the store, including the new ones, and the staff never seemed to mind – even when you turned up in the middle of a school day. Neither of us bought anything that summer, but like the best record stores used to be (still are?) we stopped in every day because it offered as much of an escape as the music promised.
WB: For books, I was sustained by the late, lamented Shakespeare Books, in the Lower Greenville neighborhood of Dallas, TX, my hometown. The owners didn’t mind a 15-year-old kid nosing through the Playboys, so long as they could also turn me on to The Village Voice and Nicholson Baker’s Vox while I was at it. For music, 14 Records—owned and operated by local legend James “Big Bucks” Burnett—fed my soul. The name wasn’t exactly an exaggeration, as Big Bucks was more into eight-tracks, cassettes, and underground zines than vinyl or CDs. It was a hangout for Dallas musicians and fans alike, and an occasional crash pad for Burnett. This was, as you might guess, not a sustainable business model but nevertheless a dope place to be, always.
33 1/3: What is your favorite book or record store in the world?
DC: Not to sound smug but I live in Portland and have the good fortune to count Powell’s Books as my local, independent bookseller. Whenever I play Ambassador to the City for out of town guests, a trip to Powell’s usually serves as the centerpiece of an afternoon.
We’re also lucky to have Music Millennium. It may be less well-known nationally, but Bob Mould fans will recognize it as the site of the “I Don’t Know You Anymore” video from 2014’s Beauty and Ruin.
WB: The beloved Avid Bookshop, in Athens, GA, with its generous, knowledgeable, kind, and breathtakingly beautiful staff. Honorable mentions go to Lemuria Books, the pride and jewel of Jackson, MS, and Bizarro-Wuxtry Comics, in downtown Athens.
33 1/3: What are you listening to right…NOW?
DC: I’m currently listening to Superchunk’s I Hate Music and reading Your Band Sucks by Jon Fine. I’m not as joyless as this makes me sound.
WB: Franco and Tabu Ley Rochereau’s Omona Wapi. Franco’s swirling, shimmering guitar jells with Tabu Ley’s luscious croon, and it’s all embedded in the radiance, joy, beats, and the light of what may be the best Afropop band to ever exist. It only lasts about 33 minutes, and then you just want to hear it all over again.
33 1/3: What are you reading right….NOW?
WB: The Amputee’s Guide to Sex by Jillian Weise. Taut, disturbing, often erotic, always electric, Weise’s poems hit you right in the crotch, and then the pain/pleasure radiates up to the heart and the head.
33 1/3: Where do you live?
DC: Portland, OR
WB: Athens, GA
What’s the best way for readers to find out more about your writing?
What to expect from Daniel and Walter’s 33 1/3:
In 1989, Bob Mould took a left turn. Already legendary before his 30th birthday for his noise-and-nuance work in Hüsker Dü, Mould had recently walked away from his old band. He returned with his debut solo album: Workbook. Filled with chiming acoustic guitars, multi-tracked vocals, pristine production, and even a cello, Workbook was both admired and questioned for Mould’s perceived departure from his hardcore roots.
Three decades later, though, the album has emerged as a key for understanding the nascent alternative rock genre and the concerns Mould would explore for the duration of his career. Fusing post-punk sound and confessional lyrics with a richer emotional and musical range, Workbook merged worlds that seemed unbridgeable at the time. Alternative rock emerged from the wreckage of the 1980s, and Workbook was a model for the genre’s maturation.
Workbook serves its title in two ways—as a map for musicians to follow into a new mode, and as a journal of Mould’s struggle toward adulthood. It opens conversations about rock, identity, spirituality, authenticity, and the perils and promises of mainstream culture. Walter Biggins and Daniel Couch, two critics who grew up with Workbook, extend these conversations—through letters and emails to each other, and through correspondence with Workbook’s creators. That crosstalk leads to, through this seminal album, a deeper understanding of “alternative rock” at the moment of its inception, just before it took over the radio.
Say hello to Daniel and Walter!