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Hüsker Dü
December 3, 2011 8:28 PM   Subscribe

As a historical document the book is exhaustive and valuable. But I did not come away feeling that I knew or understood Hüsker Dü — the musicians themselves, their music, or any of the people around them — any more intimately than I already did. Earles’ writing is at once densely opinionated and emotionless. He expertly follows the chronology of the band’s tours and releases, but he never makes it understandable why some of us look back on this band so reverently, or why it would be worth somebody’s time to discover Hüsker Dü today. (previously)
posted by Trurl (52 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
I agree with Smith in preferring New Day Rising to Flip Your Wig. I think it marks the sweet spot between the hardcore fury that made them important and the melodicism they evolved towards.
posted by Trurl at 8:34 PM on December 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ideally, I should be able to hand this book to a person who knows nothing of Hüsker Dü, and by the end that reader should be hungrily intrigued

That seems like a very strange criticism. Surely the first thing you should hand to someone who knows nothing of Hüsker Dü would be their albums. Who assumes that a book, any book, would be the point of entry to appreciation of a band? #dancingaboutarchitecture
posted by Horace Rumpole at 8:37 PM on December 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


I had heard of Hüsker Dü growing up in the upper midwest. Never really listened to their music. But I have heard them as guests several times in the local Minneapolis NPR affiliate chatting with whomever and I've liked their discussions every time.
posted by sanka at 9:08 PM on December 3, 2011


Hüsker Dü is a question. Yes, I do remember.

Also, "Bob Mould" is a fun name to say.
posted by ShutterBun at 9:20 PM on December 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


This was one of the bands you weren't allowed to like if you were in the hardcore scene where I was from. Hüsker Dü were guilty of such crimes as trying to sing, making a music video, and speaking poorly of punk in general. It makes me laugh now to look back on how much elitism and dogma there was in a scene whose primary theme was anarchy.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 9:22 PM on December 3, 2011 [6 favorites]


Jeez, they were label-mates with The Minutemen and Black Flag. What more did your crowd want?
posted by ShutterBun at 9:26 PM on December 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


The real-world 80s hardcore Comic Book Guy has been found, and he likes Hüsker Dü!

Holy Grant Hart, Batman, but that article is annoying. The man seems to believe that, as the Huskers' Biggest Fan (self-nominated), his own emotional reaction to songs and albums has the status of objective fact ... and that this book here is WRONG because it fails to convey those truths to the world.

Candy Apple Grey's "Don't Want To Know If You Are Lonely" is exactly the right place to start, by the way, if you want to turn a person who doesn't know the band at all into someone who thinks they wrote a pretty good pop rock song, and y'know that voice and guitar and musical style is kind of neat...maybe I should check out more of them after I've finished playing this cassette of Life's Rich Pageant...
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 9:28 PM on December 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


***Puts "Terms of Psychic Warfare" on repeat for next hour***
posted by Rangeboy at 9:30 PM on December 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


A friend and I have been going around and around about New Day Rising and Flip Your Wig for, well, decades. I'm a New Day Rising guy, he prefers Flip Your Wig.

Of course, in order for us to properly argue the nuances of this terribly important topic, we have to listen to the records over and over again. Win!

I read Bob Mould's autobiography recently. He's a bit of a cold fish. I'm happy he's in a good place now, and I quite like much of his solo work. I think he's one of the most distinctive guitar players in rock music -- there's a sound that only Bob can get out of a guitar, it seems. And I sympathize with his resolve to leave the past in the past. And, yeah, Grant Hart is (or, at least, WAS) a fucking train wreck.

Bob Mould owes me nothing. I get that. But goddamn, Bob, Grant was the sand in your oyster. That rivalry, that irritation, that frustration... that's part of what made Hüsker Dü so great. He was Lennon to your McCartney. Or perhaps you were Lennon to his McCartney. Whatever. All I know is that the two of you made ground-breaking music that changed my life, and you did it together.

You owe me nothing. The past is the past. I get it.

But one show, Bob. One show. Grant's songs aren't complete without your wall of noise crashing through them, trying to drown him out. And YOUR songs aren't complete without his skittering, pounding drums galloping ahead of your melodies.

One show, Bob. One show.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 9:32 PM on December 3, 2011 [16 favorites]


Jeez, they were label-mates with The Minutemen and Black Flag. What more did your crowd want?

Hey, I didn't make the rules. Videos, guitar solos, singing, and keyboards were all strictly verboten.

Also, New Day Rising here.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 9:35 PM on December 3, 2011


Husker Du is/was extremely important to me.

It was the first time I heard amazingly loud, abrasive sound sound melodically beautiful.
posted by gcbv at 9:37 PM on December 3, 2011 [4 favorites]


What you call dogma, I call an idealistic and well-intended response to the reality of the times. It's easy to look back and laugh, cherry examples that rightly look rediculous in hindsight. Just because greed and capitalism rubbed a lot of people's punk ideals in the dirt in the 1990s doesn't mean that sort of idealism was wrong to begin with.
posted by stinkycheese at 9:37 PM on December 3, 2011


I love Husker Du too, but I'd trade a HD reunion for a chance to see Sugar play one more time.
Especially if they did a full Beaster.

/sacrilege I know but it's true
posted by Senor Cardgage at 9:37 PM on December 3, 2011 [5 favorites]


What you call dogma, I call an idealistic and well-intended response to the reality of the times. It's easy to look back and laugh, cherry examples that rightly look rediculous in hindsight. Just because greed and capitalism rubbed a lot of people's punk ideals in the dirt in the 1990s doesn't mean that sort of idealism was wrong to begin with.

Whoah, hang on. I'm not talking about socio-political criticism. I'm saying the rule was you couldn't like a band, musically, if there were these musical elements involved. Which is, frankly, pretty closed-minded and has nothing to do with idealism.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 9:41 PM on December 3, 2011


Husker Du was great; they, along with a few others at the time, exploded hardcore's rigid strictures regarding what the music could be pretty much when that became necessary. But jeebus, someone build a time machine, go back, and make sure Spot doesn't once get within 50 yards of the SST recording session for New Day Rising. I still love it half to death but it hasn't aged well at all.

And, I read about half the Bob Mould book and had the very odd sensation that this bright man has absolutely no real insight in to anything involving other musicians in his life. There's a very strange, bitter passage about Grant Hart being recognized for 'Turn On The News', which fucking rocks, that really brought this home for me.


Can Mr Mould still bellow on key? If not, then a reunion isn't required. He was just amazing on '8 Miles High' which in my mind contains the very finest example of that mutant ability.
posted by Phlegmco(tm) at 9:44 PM on December 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


someone build a time machine, go back, and make sure Spot doesn't once get within 50 yards of the SST recording session for New Day Rising. I still love it half to death but it hasn't aged well at all.

Couldn't disagree more. It's the Mould-and-Hart engineered Warehouse sound that seems a period piece today.
posted by Trurl at 9:52 PM on December 3, 2011


A friend and I have been going around and around about New Day Rising and Flip Your Wig for, well, decades.

the album is Zen Arcade.
A bit sprawling in places, a colossal mess at times.
But when it clicks, man does it rip heads off at the same time it exposes hearts!

Pink Turns To Blue
Turn On The News
What's Going On?

I rest my case.
posted by philip-random at 10:07 PM on December 3, 2011 [5 favorites]


I went to see Husker Du somewhere in LA in early 1986. I was two thirds of the way into my first pregnancy and somehow I just couldn't deal with the loud although I'd heard my share before then. Suffice to say, I didn't get it, despite my husband and one of my/his best friend's appreciation.

Fast forward a few years (that dates me, no?) and Copper Blue (Sugar) was probably my favorite thing (including that song). I still love it. Thanks for the post.
posted by emhutchinson at 10:13 PM on December 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


Hey, Señor Cardgage -- the last paragraph of this article might make your heart flutter. It did mine.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 10:16 PM on December 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, from "File Under Easy Easy Listening," I often Can't Believe what [anyone is] You're Saying
posted by emhutchinson at 10:18 PM on December 3, 2011


YES!!!!!!!!!!!

Thanks :)

I was lucky enough to see a quasi 2/3 reunion of Sugar at Treasure Island Fest in 09.
I thought the bass player looked familiar and yup, it was David Barbe.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 10:20 PM on December 3, 2011


I like Husker Du, but man, could there be any more treble in their guitars? No. Hurts my ears sometimes. mumble mumble barry manilow
posted by not_on_display at 10:24 PM on December 3, 2011


Btw that day I shot a video if them roaring through "Makes No Sense At All
/ New Day Rising"
which you should watch if you like it when things are awesome.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 10:25 PM on December 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


Copper Blue hold up amazingly. Especially the first four songs, at least for me. The way one leads into the next is fantastic.
posted by MarvinTheCat at 10:25 PM on December 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


and somehow I just couldn't deal with the loud although I'd heard my share before then. Suffice to say, I didn't get it

First time I saw them would've been around 85-86. They were HUGE at the time, the must see band of the moment. And they kind of sucked. First up, NoMeansNo were the warm up and they were explosively good. And then there was the crowd which was just over the top wild and wanting to go off. For whatever reason, Husker Du just weren't into all that enthusiasm. The crazier the crowd got, the more they veered into sheer noise ... until it just turned into feedback for about twenty minutes. What a mess.

Maybe a year or two later, I caught them in a smaller club and they were as close to perfect as I could've imagined.
posted by philip-random at 10:35 PM on December 3, 2011


Yeah, when I saw them in Toronto (at RPM), a little later, they were not into it. They did their job and moved on, but it was a disappointment, something the albums are not.
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 11:16 PM on December 3, 2011


On the plus side, Husker Du are a lot more fun to reminisce about than The Replacements or Soul Asylum. (shelters self behind copy of Honey Bubble)
posted by ShutterBun at 3:23 AM on December 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hmm, I got 'Candy Apple Grey' by way of an Amazon recommendation, and eventually also Sugar's 'Copper Blue' - and although they're both good, I can't say that they moved me, or demonstrated anything remarkable.
Perhaps I haven't played them enough, or perhaps because I wasn't around (or rather, listening to music much) at the time they were released I'm just missing the fact that at the time they may have been something new/different/special compared to their compatriots.
A book explaining the significance - in conjunction with the music, of course - would probably help, although from the sounds of it, not these particular books.
posted by Chunder at 3:31 AM on December 4, 2011


I discovered Sugar only about 3 months before they broke up, and am still pissed that I never got to see them live. Copper Blue, Beaster, and File Under: Easy Listening were easily my top 3 most-played albums in college and some years after; they're those albums that I want to buy again whenever I see them at the record store. I'm not sure what exactly grabbed me about them. The super-heavy sound contrasted with more pop-like song structures was definitely part of it, and the overall atmosphere of Copper Blue and Beaster especially grabbed me... it was probably just a "right place, right time" discovery; I know a lot of people listen to Copper Blue for the first time now and shrug, but it's a desert island disc for me.

When I went back to check out Hüsker Dü I could appreciate that there were some great songs there, but the production on those SST albums is so utterly crappy that they're just frustrating to listen to. All treble, no bass. The drums sound like farts, the bass is barely there and the overall effect is like you're listening to them on an old drive-in theater speaker. If you want to hear how those albums could have sounded in capable hands, check out The Living End (recorded in 1987 but not released until 1994.)
posted by usonian at 6:16 AM on December 4, 2011 [5 favorites]


First up, NoMeansNo were the warm up and they were explosively good.

I'm not sure if it was the same tour or one a few years later, but the one time I saw NoMeansNo stands out as one of the most impressive shows I've ever seen. They kicked ass. I would have seen Husker Du (I don't remember if it was the same night or a different month), but they failed to show up, leaving the poor opening bands to play to some disgruntled people.

And is there really any debate? New Day Rising is understood by anyone of even the most minimal musical discernment as being of clear superiority right?
posted by Forktine at 6:48 AM on December 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


New Day Rising here, too. I had been listening to stuff like REM in high school when I found a mix tape laying on the floor in some class. It had a song on it I would later learn was "I Apologize" and I wore it out playing that one song over and over again. It was a revelation, like "Oh, music can do that!?"
posted by werkzeuger at 10:01 AM on December 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


It's interesting the songs that get singled out. So what is the essential Husker Du mixtape? I'd start with:

Pink Turns To Blue
Turn on the News
What's Going On?
I apologize
Celebrated Summer
Makes no sense at all
Divide and Conquer
Eight Miles High (cover)

So what's on side two?
posted by philip-random at 10:28 AM on December 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


"The Girl Who Lives On Heaven Hill" is, for me, their single greatest moment.

But proper mix-itude would also require their cover of "Love Is All Around". [Mould: "The song was written by the guy who wrote 'I Fought The Law'. There's nothing wrong with the song."] Minneapolis - to which the choice of material paid tribute - was an important part of the band's story.
posted by Trurl at 11:01 AM on December 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


OK, side two:

Real World
Diane
Books About UFOs
New Day Rising
Girl Who Lives On Heaven Hill
Plans I Make
Whatcha Drinking'
Terms of Psychic Warfare
posted by BitterOldPunk at 11:12 AM on December 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


No mixtape would be complete w/o Chartered Trips. And at the risk of incurring some Warner-Bros era hate, I'd like to see Ice Cold Ice on there too.

Also from Zen Arcade, "Whatever." I was at a first ave Bob show and people were shouting out requests and someone bellowed "WHATEVER" and Mould paused his tuning and said "No thanks, I'd like to live through the night."
posted by werkzeuger at 11:20 AM on December 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


And at the risk of incurring some Warner-Bros era hate, I'd like to see Ice Cold Ice on there too.

"These Important Years" is also part of the story - though it's not the ending everyone hoped for. And it's a pleasant tune. "Up In The Air" would be a wistful way to end the mix.

But I'm pretending that I need WB's legal permission to include any material released on their label and that they refused it.
posted by Trurl at 11:32 AM on December 4, 2011


What I've noticing lately is how prophetic some of these songs are politically. Divide and Conquer, Newest Industry, even Powerline are all really relevant today.
posted by werkzeuger at 11:42 AM on December 4, 2011


More mixtape
Something I Learned Today
Never Talking To You Again
Ill Never Forget You
The Biggest Lie
59 Times The Pain
Keep Hanging On

Random strange thought. Real World, slowed down quite a lot, bears an uncanny resemblance to Here Comes Santa Claus. I have wondered how many child hood melodies found their way into hardcore punk at the time.

Ice Cold Ice is one of my favourite songs and easily the best sounding thing on Warehoouse. It has the huge feel that Turn On The News and 8 Miles High have, but with a beautiful last gasp quality to it. A battleship going down with all guns blazing as it were and how I prefer to think of this band's end.
posted by Phlegmco(tm) at 12:02 PM on December 4, 2011


Zen Arcade, without a doubt. That album still awes me. Then New Day Rising.
posted by dfan at 12:50 PM on December 4, 2011


Syria Mosque ballroom in Pittsburgh when I as in high school. Didn't pay attention much since at the time I was into more hardcore stuff. Years later I regret not paing attention more :(

I did redeem myself a years later during college, when the summer before Sugar's "Copper Blue" came out, Sugar did a little mini tour. They announced the show only that weekend, and it was one of the best shows I saw during my days in Morganton, WV.
posted by punkrockrat at 12:58 PM on December 4, 2011


I arrived in the Twin Cities for college the year after Husker Du broke up, but caught Bob at First Ave in 89 or 90. His final song in the encore was Cinnamon Girl. My memory is him literally tearing the strings off his guitar, then tossing it into the bass drum and walking off to a wall of feedback that seemed to last five minutes. Twenty-odd Bob (Sugar, Bob Mould Band, etc) shows later, my ears have never been the same.
posted by jindc at 1:28 PM on December 4, 2011


Another 'Zen Arcade' vote here. The only thing better from the 80's is 'Double Nickels On The Dime' (With "Take that, Huskers!" in the runout groove. Good times.
posted by jetsetsc at 1:33 PM on December 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Everything Falls Apart and Sugar's Beaster for me
posted by porn in the woods at 3:03 PM on December 4, 2011


Hey, here's a thing I didn't know existed:

Hüsker Dü covers The Beatles' "Ticket To Ride"

It's not so great, but what a nifty thing to stumble across. Thanks, Internets!
posted by BitterOldPunk at 4:51 PM on December 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


That dud concert I mentioned earlier, where they got blown out by NoMeansNo and their own indifference -- they finished it with with a throwaway take on Ticket To Ride and then a long, long version of All Work And No Play, which was probably the highlight of their night ... but too little too late.
posted by philip-random at 7:48 PM on December 4, 2011


Trurl: It's the Mould-and-Hart engineered Warehouse sound that seems a period piece today.

Wait, I love a lot of tracks on that album! So I would honestly like to hear more about your thinking here.
posted by wenestvedt at 7:53 AM on December 5, 2011


Wait, I love a lot of tracks on that album! So I would honestly like to hear more about your thinking here.

Well obviously I can't speak for Trurl, and I love a lot of Warehouse, but I agree with him that it sounds dated. I think it has a overly clean, brittle slightly antiseptic sound that is the result of a band accustomed to fairly spartan recording studios suddenly recording at a Warner-Bros technical level. All the lo-fi stuff that sounds appropriate and in equilibrium when you're recording at 8 or 16 tracks on narrow analog tape in somebody's basement doesn't fly when you're filling 24+ tracks on big tape in a studio with better headroom and a lower noise floor. This is all before "grunge" and Nirvana, et al and the studios just didn't know how to record the Wall of Noise.

So for me at least, I love those songs, but imagine if they could be recorded with the skill involved in Workbook or Black Sheets of Rain, or Sugar anything.
posted by werkzeuger at 9:17 AM on December 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Thank you, that makes sense: I once had the keys to a Corvette for the evening, and didn't know what to do with myself. :7)
posted by wenestvedt at 12:47 PM on December 5, 2011


For the mixtape:
Crystal
dammit. Now I really want to listen to it but I have to wait until the office is empty. Because of the awesomeness. Well, and there might be dancing, too.
posted by hap_hazard at 2:20 PM on December 5, 2011


the one time I saw NoMeansNo stands out as one of the most impressive shows I've ever seen.

Your assessment is entirely correct. And at the risk of detracting from the main post, I'll just leave this Big Dick here.
posted by ShutterBun at 1:33 AM on December 7, 2011


No Means No sounds like what I always wished Saccharine Trust had sounded like.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 12:57 PM on December 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


I know it makes me a Husker Du weirdo, but I think Warehouse is actually my favorite of their albums. Probably because it was the first one I had, but still.

I think it's Warehouse, anyway. Unless I'm having a New Day Rising day.

Random: one of the weirdest musical misunderstandings I've ever been involved with happened when I popped in The Living End and a friend of mine who didn't know Husker Du thought they were opening with a song where they kept repeating "New Budweiser" over and over.
posted by COBRA! at 1:33 PM on December 7, 2011


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