Sunday, August 07, 2011

Husker Du Take Two

Bob Mould, ex-Husker Du ex-Sugar, was on Sound Opinions recently, promoting his new book. I used to be a big Bob Mould and Husker Du fan, but lost my love for them in recent years. Underneath his Midwestern nice guy facade, Mould seems like an egotistical jerk. I really didn't like Sugar, and I've found his post-Husker Du output less than impressive.

 I wrote about Husker Due three years ago on this blog and called them bad rock.  I would like to correct that statement. I found a used copy of their 1983 double concept album Zen Arcade at Amoeba recently, and I was blown away by it. I owned a copy on cassette in the 80s, and I liked it, but I had begun to think of it as cheesy and underwhelming, something that wasn't very good taken outside of the context of the time.
Then I listened to the entire thing again for the first time in almost twenty years, and I realized how amazing the record is. It straddles hardcore punk, folk, psychedelic, and pop-infused songwriting in a way that works as a cohesive whole. Even more surprising, the whole thing was recorded in 40 hours, with almost all of the 22 songs being cut after just one take.

It starts off with "Something I Learned Today," a blast of negative energy that adds melody to the hardcore blast.

"Chartered Trips" is one the better pop songs that Husker Du recorded, and proved that they could operate at a slower speed without losing their power.

My favorite song on the album, and one of my favorite punk songs ever, is "I'll Never Forget You," one of the most emotional and passionate songs cut to vinyl.

Seeing them play it live, they almost match the intensity of their early hardcore days, before their music had any discernible notes, much less melodies.

I also found a cheap used copy of Husker Du's last album, Warehouse: Songs and Stories. I had remembered this album being kind of terrible, but it's held up better than I thought. By this point they had totally abandoned punk, going more for a second-rate REM sound, but there are some gems on the disc.

In my earlier post on Husker Du, I had criticized Grant Hart's drumming, which I said lacked a bottom. Seeing them play live made me realize that he plays like a jazz drummer. It's not my favorite sound, but it compliments the music perfectly.

So the point here is, the critics are right: Husker Du were an amazing band. I may not love Bob Mould's later output, but it's hard to argue with the records the Huskers put out.

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