HUSKER DU – ” Candy Apple Grey “

Posted: March 27, 2021 in Classic Albums, MUSIC
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Husker Du helped invent alternative rock as we know it with their landmark 1984 double album “Zen Arcade” and its follow up albums (1985’s “Flip Your Wig” in particular predicted what the alt-rock mainstream wound sound like a decade later), and their impact was felt on pop punk too. It’s hard to pick just one Husker Du album for any best of list, but their 1986 major label debut “Candy Apple Grey” wins because of “Don’t Want to Know If You Are Lonely,” which would’ve been a pop punk smash if it came out in 1994.

It sounds as much as like proto-Green Day as the Buzzcocks did, and Green Day didn’t try to hide their love of the song — they released a faithful cover of it. Others on this album like “I Don’t Know For Sure” and “Eiffel Tower High” found Husker Du offering up punchy punk rock and sugary pop in equal measure, and it’s easy to hear how this former hardcore band was shaping pop punk with those songs too. Husker Du broke up before they were able to enjoy the same success that Green Day, Nirvana, and their other followers enjoyed, and even though co-frontman Bob Mould’s next band Sugar went on to release an alt-rock masterpiece with their 1992 debut Copper Blue, both Husker Du and Sugar remained underdogs compared to the bands they inspired.

Five years on from Candy Apple Grey, the roster of every major label would be heaving with angry young rock & roll powered by surging electric guitars, howling vocals and non-specific angst. This, of course, was a result of the success of Nirvana’s Nevermind. However, as Nirvana themselves never shied from admitting, Nirvana’s Nevermind was, in a major way, a result of Hüsker Dü, and specifically Hüsker Dü’s Candy Apple Grey. It is probably the first major label grunge album; the Minneapolis trio had already racked up around half a dozen albums of superior and weirdly tuneful punk rock before Warners signed them. “Candy Apple Grey” wasn’t markedly different from any of its indie predecessors in terms of style–basically Bob Mould’s buzzsaw guitar and jet-engine vocal competing to be heard over a rhythm section playing with the speed and abandon of a runaway locomotive–but the songs had never been this good before.

In drummer Grant Hart’s “Don’t Want To Know If You’re Lonely” and Mould’s “Eiffel Tower High”, Hüsker Dü came up with a giddying hybrid of Black Sabbath and The Byrds. Elsewhere, Mould’s acoustic “Hardly Getting Over It” amounted to the beginning of his absurdly overlooked solo career. Candy Apple Grey was the sort of dazzling, unnerving record that made people want to form bands of their own. The fact that so many of these bands were formed in and around Seattle is a phenomenon as yet unexplained by science.

Maybe it was for the best; extreme mainstream exposure took its toll on a lot of major pop punk and alt-rock bands, but Bob Mould is still churning out great record after great record today, nearly 40 years after the first Husker Du single.

  1. Bob sure is still churning out great stuff. Candy Apple Grey was my first. Then I discovered Sugar. I am a fan who wishes they’d done more but am glad they were never spoiled.

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