Posts Tagged ‘Husker Du’

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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.

Hüsker Dü

If there’s one word that describes Hüsker Dü it’s speed, whether that’s found in the ferocity of their earliest songs, the amphetamines charging through their veins, or the fact that their whole body of work including seven albums from the live freakout Land Speed Record through to their swansong Warehouse: Songs and Stories – was released between 1981 and 1987.

But amid this breakneck charge, one flex perhaps best sums up their power as a group: “New Day Rising” emerging blinking into the light in January 1985, only six months after Zen Arcade had blown hardcore up from the inside.

Zen Arcade was an album with a sense of scope that bled beyond its borders, a blockbuster nightmarescape that pushed Bob Mould, Grant Hart and Greg Norton as artists—not just punk kids out of the Twin Cities across four sides of vinyl. Shifting perspective again, New Day Rising was about refinement, and drilling down into the melodic smarts that allow us to view Hüsker Dü as a cornerstone of modern indie-rock. “I’m really glad New Day Rising was done and dusted before Zen Arcade really started to resonate,” guitarist-vocalist Mould wrote in his autobiography. “Can you imagine if we hadn’t had another record ready? We’d have been sitting around with the earth shaking underneath us, trying to get settled and centred enough to make another strong album but instead we struck while the iron is hot.”

Hüsker Dü’s music was always driven by tension – between Mould and drummer-vocalist Hart as songwriters, between the band and their label, SST Records, between the band and their hardcore purist fans, who were always one step away from crying sellout – and New Day Rising was no different.

With a power struggle ongoing between the trio, who sought to self-produce the LP, and SST’s in-house engineer Spot, who was forced upon them by the cash-conscious label, that tension is welded to the presentation of the songs. They’re scratchy and raw, washed out at times. They’re imperfect, just as Mould and Hart began to reach for pop-punk perfection with cast-iron classics such as “I Apologize” and “The Girl Who Lives on Heaven Hill”.

“They were kind of working from within a classic pop structure,” Spot told Michael Azerrad in Our Band Could Be Your Life. “And doing something else with it. Kind of like they broke into it with a coat hanger and got the keys out and went on a joy ride. And then wore the tires out.”

It’s entirely thrilling to see Mould, in particular, figure out what he’s capable of almost in real time. Celebrated Summer, from its coruscating, infinitely catchy riff through to its runaway train of a hook and pensive acoustic break, is close to a perfect encapsulation of the elements that would sustain a 40-year career. But Hart’sTerms of Psychic Warfare” – a wonderfully wonky, quasi-Stones styled pop-rocker – is just around the bend and shows him in lockstep with his bandmate.

The garbled jangle of Perfect Example is Mould finding the willingness to take his foot off the pedal, and also a snapshot of the drinking habit he carried throughout recording. “I was coming to the end of my drinking time and was realising I wasn’t the easiest person to be around at times,” . “I could be a fully functioning yet contrary alcoholic at 23 or 24. So songs like “I Apologize” are clearly me feeling like a bad young man, like I should apologise globally for something I probably did but was not fully aware of because I was drunk a lot.”

At this point Mould was playing Ibanez Flying Vs, with his graduation to Fender Strats still a few years down the road at the start of his solo career. A relic from this era also turned up on his searing 13th solo record Blue Hearts: a reissue ‘65 silverface Fender Deluxe. “That adds a lot of the constant, upper-mid saturation that you’re hearing on the record,” he told us last autumn.

New Day Rising was another outsider hit, and a line in the sand for Hüsker Dü. They’d put out three more records in their last two years together, with the (finally) self-produced Flip Your Wig released in September ’85. An almost faultless missive from the nascent indie-rock scene, it pushed the melodic envelope even further and set the table for their divisive decision to jump to a major for 1986’s Candy Apple Grey.

Eventually, addiction and infighting swallowed Hüsker Dü whole and they folded with more acrimony than ceremony in 1987. Mould got into acoustic writing with Workbook and ignited a power-pop renaissance with his band Sugar as the 80s ticked over into the 90s.  In 1994, he came out as gay in a article. “The army’s credo was ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’” he told the Guardian last year. “In hardcore, it was ‘don’t advertise, don’t worry.’ I had a handful of casual encounters with guys on the road. But it was a community of misfits, and mostly no one cared what you did behind closed doors. 

Grant Hart and Norton also pursued their own careers, with Hart’s 1988 2541 EP tracing its roots back to writing sessions for New Day Rising. He’d later play with the underrated Nova Mob and release a run of solo records. After years of animosity and backbiting, Hüsker Dü’s three members patched things up long enough to work on the exceptional early years archive release Savage Young Dü, which was released only weeks after Hart’s death from liver cancer in September 2017.

The Band:

  • Bob Mould – vocals, guitar
  • Grant Hart – vocals, drums
  • Greg Norton – bass
Hüsker Dü - New Day Rising

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After a fleeting dalliance with optimism on last year’s Sunshine Rock, Bob Mould returns to rage on “Blue Hearts” — a punkish album that’s sometimes even more aggressive than the hardcore screeds he recorded 40 years ago with Hüsker Dü. He literally screams at Trump and evangelicals on “American Crisis,” which seems to juxtapose the way the Reagan administration ignored the AIDS epidemic with Trump’s lies about the Covid-19 pandemic. “I never thought I’d see this bullshit again,” he sings. The more tempered yet still caustic “Forecast of Rain” is Mould’s indictment of religious hypocrisy. “These fuckers tried to kill me once,” Mould said of his motivation on Blue Hearts. “I’m not going to sit quietly this time and worry about alienating anyone.”

Look, I get it. It’s not fun to think about how fucked up America is when you just want to listen to some songs in the car. Still, given how terrible pretty much everything has been for the last few years, it’s weird that there hasn’t been a larger resurgence in politically minded music. It’s fallen to older artists to address Trumpism and the toll it’s taken on the country. Bob Mould’s Blue Hearts is a furious broadside about the lies, hypocrisies and inhumane policies of the modern conservative movement, with “American Crisis” in particular reviving the pissed-off political consciousness of the early ‘80s hardcore scene Mould got his start in. Blue Hearts unites that “In a Free Land”-era anger with the pop song writing of peak Husker Du and the crunch of Mould’s recent solo albums, resulting in one of the most powerful records of the year.

Release date: September 25th From the album Blue Hearts, out on Merge Records.


Blue Hearts

Aggressive, loud and unrelenting – Bob Mould takes aim at the malaise of 2020 in the way only he can, showing the many Husker Du and Sugar aping bands just how it’s done.

Through some of the most direct, confrontational lyrics of his four-decade career, Mould makes his POV clear: “I never thought I’d see this bullshit again / To come of age in the ’80s was bad enough / We were marginalized and demonized / I watched a lot of my generation die / Welcome back to American crisis.”

Why “welcome back”? Because Mould experienced deja vu writing Blue Hearts in the fall of 2019. “Where it started to go in my head is back to a spot that I’ve been in before,” he says. “And that was the fall of 1983.” “where it started to go in my head is back to a spot that i’ve been in before,” he says. “and that was the fall of 1983.” back then, Mould was a self-described “22-year-old closeted gay man” touring with the legendary Hüsker Dü and seeing an epidemic consume his community. leaders, including the one in the white house, were content to let aids kill a generation. it’s been a long time since a power pop album has felt this present and pertinent, and who else but mould could bring that sound back to the forefront? “this is the catchiest batch of protest songs I’ve ever written in one sitting,” he says.

In the winter of 2019, Bob Mould bucked the era’s despair with his most melodic, upbeat album in ages, “Sunshine Rock”.

Cut to spring of 2020, and he has this to say: “We’re really in deep shit now.”

That sentiment informs the new full-length album, Blue Hearts (Merge Records, September 25th), the raging-but-catchy yin to Sunshine Rock’s yang.

To be sure, we were in some shit back in 2018, when Mould recorded Sunshine Rock with longtime colleagues Jon Wurster (drums), Jason Narducy (bass), and Beau Sorenson (engineer). Back then, he had a song called “American Crisis” that didn’t fit the album.

“That song is the seed for what we’re talking about now,” Mould says from his home in San Francisco during the COVID-19 lockdown. “At the time, it just seemed too heavy. Today it seems fucking quaint.”

“American Crisis” is the third song in a walloping first half of an album that spits plainspoken fire at the people who fomented this crisis. “This is the catchiest batch of protest songs I’ve ever written in one sitting,” he says.

Through some of the most direct, confrontational lyrics of his four-decade career, Mould makes his POV clear: “I never thought I’d see this bullshit again / To come of age in the ’80s was bad enough / We were marginalized and demonized / I watched a lot of my generation die / Welcome back to American crisis.”

“We have a charismatic, telegenic, say-anything leader being propped up by evangelicals,” he says. “These fuckers tried to kill me once. They didn’t do it. They scared me. I didn’t do enough. Guess what? I’m back, and we’re back here again. And I’m not going to sit quietly this time and worry about alienating anyone.”


Recorded at the famed Electrical Audio in Chicago with Sorenson engineering and Mould producing, Blue Hearts nods to Mould’s past while remaining firmly planted in the issues of the day. Acoustic opener “Heart on My Sleeve” catalogues the ravages of climate change. “Next Generation” worries for who comes next. “American Crisis” references “Evangelical ISIS” and features this dagger of a line: “Pro-life, pro-life until you make it in someone else’s wife.”

“There are songs that have no room,” Mould says, laughing. “The other songs, there’s room. There is room for imagination on the second half of the record.”

That’s where the songs turn personal in a different way. Tracks like “When You Left,” “Siberian Butterfly,” and “Everyth!ng to You” are grounded in personal relationships. “Racing to the End” captures the economic disparity of Mould’s neighborhood, and “Leather Dreams”… well, maybe Jon Wurster put it best.

“Jon turns to Jason and asks, ‘Is this the dirtiest song you’ve ever played on?’” Mould recalls with a chuckle. “I clearly did not put the edit tool to that one. Those are all pretty true bits. What kind of person could possibly have a life like that?” He laughs again. “Says the author.”

“Leather Dreams,” “Password to My Soul,” and “The Ocean” were composed during a writing binge before a January 2020 Solo Electric tour, when Mould stayed up for three straight days. “Songs just kept coming out,” he says. “‘Leather Dreams’ and ‘The Ocean’ both appeared within hours. I barely remember writing them.”

That feels right for an explosive, hook-laden album like Blue Hearts. Only there’s nothing forgettable about it.

All songs written by Bob Mould

Bob Mould: Guitars, Vocals, Keyboards, Percussion
Jason Narducy: Bass, Backing Vocals
Jon Wurster: Drums, Percussion

Prague TV Orchestra: Strings on “American Crisis”

Released September 25th, 2020

Produced by Bob Mould
Engineered by Beau Sorenson

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In the first 15 seconds of his new video, Bob Mould tells the world: “Dictators, terrorists and tech companies have created an apocalyptic surveillance state. The Western world has fallen into a deep state of paranoia and disinformation.”

The video for Bob Mould’s new song, “Lost Faith” cuts to a scene of our protagonist, living in Germany, being interviewed by the media. From Mould’s paranoid point of view, all he can see are drones following him. And when the reporter asks, “What are you running from?” the music kicks in and Mould sings: “I’ve lost faith in everything / Everything, everything.” This could simply be the perfect song for our times, but what Mould does in “Lost Faith” (and elsewhere on his forthcoming album Sunshine Rock) is take the negativity and fear and locate the positive. “I know we all lose faith from time to time,” he sings. “You better find your way back home.”

New album ‘Sunshine Rock’ out Feb 8th, 2019!

Bob Mould is a legend, and his band Hüsker Dü informed a huge swath of music in the ’90s. These days, he is, in fact, living in Germany; it’s been a few years and he says he’s newly inspired. The new album is full of themes of sunshine instead of “black sheets of rain.”

Writing via email, Mould says of “Lost Faith” that “there’s a hint of migration, a dash of border security and a whisper of government surveillance, climaxing across the multicolored canvas of an abandoned NSA listening station perched atop the highest hill in Berlin. But at the end of the day, it’s a high-end music video for a catchy, inspirational, uplifting pop song.”

From the album Sunshine Rock, out February 8th, 2019 on Merge Records.

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Whitney  –  Light Upon The Lake: Demo Recordings

Light Upon The Lake’, the debut from Whitney, was born from early-morning songwriting sessions during one of the most brutal winters in Chicago’s history. Vocalist / drummer Julien Ehrlich and guitarist Max Kakacek began writing unflinching, honest songs about everything from breakups to the passing of Ehrlich’s grandfather. The pair leaned on one another for both honest critique and a sounding board for working through their newly-discovered truths.

The brief, intense period of creativity for the band yielded ‘Light Upon The Lake’s exceptional, unfussy combination of soul, breezy Sixties / Seventies rock and sombre heartbreak woven together by hopeful, golden threads. After critical acclaim and nearly nonstop touring since the album’s 2016 release, Ehrlich and Kakacek are going back to their roots – for the first time, the full demos from ‘Light Upon The Lake’ will be made available. After a whirlwind year following the debut, the demos offer a way for listeners to get a glimpse into the very beginning of Whitney’s sound.

“After almost two years of non-stop touring, we decided we wanted to close the chapter on ‘Light Upon The Lake’ by releasing the songs in their earliest incarnations alongside a cover of a band favorite by Alan Toussaint, and an unreleased track called ‘You and Me’. We’re looking towards LP2 as we finish out the year on the road.”


Husker Du – Savage Young Du

Experience the punishing sonic origins of a punk icon. Collected here for the first time, and skillfully remastered from original board tapes, demos, and session masters, this collection is an authoritative chronicling of the wellspring and maturation of Grant Hart, Greg Norton and Bob Mould – three St. Paul teenagers who’d go on to become the most heralded trio of the American punk underground. Follow the Hüskers to their earliest gigs in 1979, through extensive road dog touring, and to the start of their partnership with West Coast tastemaker SST Records in 1983 via a massive hardbound book crammed full of photos, flyers, and a sprawling essay with participation from the band. 47 of the 69 songs compiled here are previously unissued, and includes In A Free Land, Everything Falls Apart , and an alternate version Land Speed Record.

3CD – Three CD Remastered Set housed in Die Cut Sleeves. Comes with 144 Page Booklet with 40 previously unpublished photographs and 12,000 word essay by Erin Osmon.

4LP – Four LP Remastered Set housed in Tip on Sleeves. Comes with 108 Page Booklet with 40 previously unpublished photographs and 12,000 word essay by Erin Osmon.

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The Stooges  – Highlights From The Fun House Sessions

1970: The Complete Fun House Sessions was recorded at Elektra Sound Recorders in Los Angeles and compiled from all thirteen reels of multi-track tape that held every note and snippet of studio dialogue. Twelve reels of tape were used during the original sessions, with the thirteenth reel having the takes that would be used on the studio album. This sprawling set which was originally aimed at the collector market would be challenging and cost prohibitive to reissue as a multi-disc vinyl box set. What is presented here is an attempt to assemble some of the best highlights from the Fun House Sessions on an officially-released 2LP set in high quality packaging with a sequence that hopefully proves to be an easier, and more casual listen. Included are some terrific alternate versions of Down on the Street, Loose, Dirt, Funhouse ,1970 and others, pulled from session reels 1, 4,6, 7, 9 & 11 and originally recorded on May 11,12, 15, 18, 21 & 25 of 1970. Also notable is the inclusion of the 17+ minute-version of L.A. Blues, titled as “Freak,” which encompasses the entire fourth side of this set and is the prime example of what makes the Funhouse Sessions both loved and feared simultaneously.

Angel Olsen –  Phases

Angel Olsen releases Phases, a collection of B-sides, rarities, and demos from the past several years, including a number of never-before released tracks, via Jagjaguwar. Balancing tenacity and tenderness, Phases acts as a deep-dive for longtime fans, as well as a fitting introduction to Olsen’s sprawling sonics for the uninitiated. Fly On Your Wall, previously contributed to the online-only, anti-Trump fundraiser Our First 100 Days, opens Phases, before seamlessly slipping into Special, a brand new song from the My Woman recording sessions. Both How Many Disasters and Sans are first-time listens: home-recorded demos that have never been released, leaning heavily on Olsen’s arresting croon and lonesome guitar. The B-sides compilation is both a testament to Olsen’s enormous musical range and a tidy compilation of tracks that have previously been elusive in one way or another.

LP – Black Vinyl with Download.

Jane weaver

Jane Weaver  –  Modern Kosmology

Modern Kosmology sees Jane Weaver’s melodic-protagonist channeling new depths of creative cosmic energy within. After the huge critical acclaim of 2012’s Fallen By Watchbird, followed by 2015’s exploratory Silver Globe LP winning her unanimous “record of the year accolades” and hefty measures of radio play-listing Jane Weaver’s conceptual trajectory has sent her neo-kosmische penchants to the point of no-return. Jane Weaver’s unwaning yearning for psychoactive pop energy has just reached a new level of magnetism. As snowclones go, Modern Kosmology is the new Silver. Another Spectrum to add to the tension.

CD – Digipack.

LP – Standard LP is standard weight vinyl, black inner and A6 download card.

LP+ – Deluxe LP – 1000 Copies only. Black 180 Gram vinyl, Deluxe metallic foil print sleeve, black inner, 24”x12” fold out poster, A6 download card.


Vagabon – Infinite Worlds

Reissue on Marathon of the album that came out earlier this year on Father/Daughter records and was a Pitchfork favourite. Within the songs of Laetitia Tamko there are infinite worlds: emotional spaces that grow wider with time, songs within songs that reveal themselves on each listen. Tamko is a multi-instrumentalist and a producer, recording since 2014 as Vagabon. Her forthcoming debut, Infinite Worlds, builds upon Tamko’s stripped-down demos that have been circulating online and throughout the independent music community for the past two years. Tamko’s songs are embedded with her own story and personal history: growing up in Cameroon, her family’s move to New York and adjusting to culture shock. She grew up around music and loved it, but finishing engineering school was a priority before music could start to feel like a real possibility. To date, Tamko mostly listens to East and West African music nostalgic of her childhood, styles of music that influence her own in subtle ways.

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The Raincoats  –  Fairytale In The Supermarket EP

Limited copies are signed by Ana Da Silva. We ThRee reissue The Raincoats’ legendary first 7” E.P. originally released on Rough Trade Records in April 1979, and has been commercially unavailable since its first release. Fairytale in the Supermarket currently features in Mike Mill’s widely acclaimed and Golden Globes nominated new film 20th CenturyDigitally re-mastered from original masters. Original monoprint sleeve design by Ana da Silva.

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R.E.M  – Automatic For The People (25th Anniversary Edition)

Widely considered to be one of the best albums of the 90s, 1992’s Automatic For The People features R.E.M.’s iconic hit singles Nightswimming, Man on the Moon and Everybody Hurts.

2CD – Remastered album plus Live At The 40 Watt Club in a rigid clamshell box with booklet. 4CD – Remastered Deluxe edition boxset features previously unreleased material, including 20 never-before-heard demos, and the previously unreleased tracks Mike’s Pop Song and Devil Rides Backwards. A Blu-ray disc offers the full album (with bonus track Photograph featuring Natalie Merchant) mixed in Dolby Atmos, plus a high-resolution master of the album, music videos, and the original 1992 EPK. Also included is Live At The 40 Watt Club 11/19/92 – a live set performed in R.E.M.’s hometown of Athens, GA.

LP – 180 Gram Heavyweight black vinyl, cut from original analogue tapes at Capitol Studios and download card.

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Ed Tullett and Novo Amor  –  Heiress

After meeting in November 2013, Ed Tullett and Novo Amor (Ali Lacey) quickly began writing to form the basis of what is now “Heiress”, their full-length collaborative record.
Recorded around the release of their two widely lauded collaborative singles (“Faux”, 2014 and “Alps”, 2016), the pair worked sporadically in intense week-long sessions in Cardiff spilling over Lacey’s old and new home-studios, tearing songs down and building them back up again. “Heiress” is noticeably the product of nearly 4 years work – sprawling, ambitious and strikingly deep, it’s a collection of songs both meticulously calculated and deeply felt.

American punk band Hüsker Dü’s early music is being remastered from the original analogue tapes, and released on vinyl in a new retrospective called Savage Young Dü.

Experience the punishing sonic origins of a punk icon. Collected here for the first time, and skillfully remastered from original board tapes, demos, and session masters, this collection is an authoritative chronicling of the wellspring and maturation of Grant Hart, Greg Norton and Bob Mould—three St. Paul teenagers who’d go on to become the most heralded trio of the American punk underground. Follow the Hüskers to their earliest gigs in 1979, through extensive road dog touring, and to the start of their partnership with West Coast tastemaker SST in 1983.

This primitive stage in the fabled career of Hüsker Dü is presented as a deluxe box set and packaged with a hardbound book crammed full of never before seen photos, flyers, and a sprawling essay with participation from the band. Spread across four LPs 47 of the 69 songs compiled here are previously unissued. Also included are Statues/Amusement, In A Free Land, Everything Falls Apart, and an alternate recording of the Land Speed Record set.

Among his best-loved (and best) solo statement was “2541,” a ballad from 1989. Grant Hart chronicles the gritty details of moving apartments after a breakup – picking up the keys, putting the names on the mailbox, hoping this time will be different. The end is devastating in a casually quotidian way: “I’d say the situation’s reversed/And it’s probably not the last time I’ll have to be out by the first.” It’s a song that sums up everything that made Grant Hart one of a kind – and a song that sums up why he is mourned and celebrated today. Rest in peace, Grant Hart.

From the Intolerance CD-SST Records 1989.

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Bob Mould, Hüsker Dü’s chief songwriter, singer and de facto leader would no doubt delight in the knowledge that for many, the band’s name is synonymous with his own. But to ignore the part played by his band mates, particularly drummer and co-founder Grant Hart, is to ignore a huge part of the band’s legacy – including everything from their first single to their biggest hit. Though healthy competition between the two ultimately spiralled into bitter infighting which would tear the band apart, these inter-band tensions helped, for a while, to create some of the band’s best ever music as Hart and Mould entered into a game of musical one-upmanship. And so we present the best Hüsker Dü songs written by Grant Hart.

There weren’t a lot of girls in hardcore songs – but there was only one Grant Hart, and in his songs, he turned himself into a lens and noticed things nobody else did. When you saw Hüsker Dü live in the Eighties, you saw three earnest young men – Hart, Mould, bassist Greg Norton burn through their songs, as Mould and Hart traded off lead vocals without a pause in between. Mould was all wary scowl and no-bullshit guitar fuzz; Hart was one big flippant grin. You could get mesmerized by Hart’s manic drumming, a blur of hair and elbows, and the audibly giddy slobber of his voice.

They produced seven albums together, before an acrimonious split in 1988 at the peak of their popularity. Grant Hart changed the emotional vocabulary of punk rock. As the long-haired barefoot drummer of Hüsker Dü, he was the cheeriest-looking guy anyone had seen in a hardcore band, and despite all the turmoil he brought to their songs, he also brought his skewed pop smile. His songs ran the spectrum – the rage of “It’s Not Funny Anymore,” the affection of “The Girl Who Lives on Heaven Hill,” the grief of “Pink Turns to Blue.” Hüsker Dü’s emotional realness made them a life-changing band for so many of us, and that’s why Hart, who died last night in Minneapolis at 56, was a life-changing presence.

BOOKS ABOUT UFO’S (Hart, 1985)

Check the glorious racket of his finest Hüsker Dü song, “Books About UFOs,” from their 1985 classic New Day Rising: a demented Brian Wilson–style melody, drenched in Bob Mould’s guitar feedback. Hart bangs on a piano and yelps about a stargazing girl who hangs at the library, “checking out the latest books about outer space.” She sits on her roof, reading and eating oranges. There’s an utterly unironic “wooooo!” into the guitar solo, before Hart crows the breathless final lines: “Her life revolves around all of the planets! And she is constantly aware of all the changes that occur! I’m going to turn into a lens and focus all my attention and I’m finding a new planet and naming it … right after herrrr!”

TURN ON THE NEWS (Hart, 1984)

Their 1985 album, Zen Arcade, was praised by Rolling Stone magazine as one of the greatest albums of the 1980s and one the best punk albums ever. Hart’s contribution, “Turn on the News” has been listed on the 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Hart, who later went on to form the group Nova Mob, was also cited as an influence on Nirvana drummer and Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl.

STATUES (Hart, 1981)
The band’s first single, Statues was released at a time when Hüsker Dü were struggling to pin down their sound. Though it shows an interest in experimentation that would follow the band through each stage of their career, the almost nine minutes-worth of Krautrock inspired, Keith Levine-esque guitar is far removed from the boisterous hardcore that followed in its wake. Borrowing heavily from Neu! and PiL, it hints at Hart’s aptitude for a scribbling out a catchy tune – an ability that would later help to shape the band’s signature brand of melodic punk rock.

Arguably Hüsker Dü’s biggest hit, that this was the most popular song from the band’s major label debut would have significantly rankled Bob Mould, not least as it was released as an increasingly destructive creative partnership between the two developed. A sophisticated pop punk masterpiece, this song laid a blueprint for hundreds of aspiring punk rockers to follow – including future millionaires Green Day, Foo Fighters and Blink 182.

By the time Hüsker Dü released Zen Arcade, Hart’s credentials as an accomplished pop songwriter were already solid. Here, his ability to marry the dark subject matter of a young woman suffering a fatal overdose with sweet but melancholic melodies provides a sobering counterpoint to his whimsical, 60s-influenced love songs. Foreshadowing Hart’s own struggles with substance abuse, the song isn’t without its own sense of tragic irony.

GREEN EYES (Hart, 1985)
While Hart and Mould both developed a taste for bitter break up songs and damning shuns, it was Hart who truly nailed the wide-eyed love songs. This innocent account of Hart just being super into his companion shimmers under its lush, 60s-inspired harmonies, and includes some of his most sweetly heartfelt lyrics: What makes them sparkle/What makes them shine/What makes those eyes of yours look into mine?

Zen Arcade was Hüsker Dü’s magnum opus, an experimental melting pot of hardcore, folk, psychedelia and pop that spanned 70 minutes and four sides of vinyl. These two minutes of fast-paced acoustic strumming, nestled between two angst-ridden Mould tracks, might have seemed out of place, but this concise, stripped-back statement of intent works as a cheeky counterpoint which will trip you up and out of those epic proceedings, before swallowing you back into them on the other side.

DIANE (Hart, 1983)
Covered by Therapy? in 1995 (their version made it to No.26 in the UK charts, far outstripping the success of the original), Diane was an early college radio stand out track. Its rumbling, haunting punk rock caught the attention of campus DJs and students across America, solidifying Hüsker Dü’s place in the emerging college rock alumni. Detailing the brutal 1980 murder of Minnesota waitress Diane Edwards, its sinister subject matter was at odds with Hart’s hippy reputation.

New Day Rising is the record on which Hart and Mould began in earnest to develop distinct sounds, and Girl Who... is an excellent example of this divide, with its glorious pop punk standing slightly at odds with Mould’s emerging alt.rock leanings. While it’s widely considered to be a straightforward love song, considering that Heaven Hill was a brand of bourbon popular at the time, many have insisted it should instead be read as Hart’s lament to his own tumultuous relationship with alcohol.

Embracing his hippy reputation with full force, Hart uses this track to indulge in obscure instrumentation (wood blocks and wind pipes on a punk song?) and whimsical tales set against a psychedelic backdrop. Warehouse: Songs And Stories contained more of Hart’s songs than any other (9 in total), though Mould commanded the lion’s share. Unfortunately Warehouse... would mark the end of the band’s recording career together, as personal struggles gripped Hart while his relationship with Mould disintegrated entirely.

SOMEWHERE (Hart/Mould, 1984)
Though technically Mould did write this song, he didn’t do it alone, and it bears mention as a Hart/Mould co-write is a relative rarity in the Hüsker Dü back catalogue. Taken from 1984’s Zen Arcade – and a time when the pair were still amicable enough to share writing credits (this wouldn’t last for much longer) – this short but sweet slice of energetic punk rock ends with backward tape loops of guitar, mimicking the earlier psychedelic techniques used in Dreams Reoccurring.

As their brotherly rivalry threatened to tip over into something more sinister, Hart and Mould’s songwriting styles flourished as they competed to outdo one another track by track. While it ultimately wrecked their relationship, Flip Your Wig is the album that really bore the fruits of this conflict – and is considered by Mould to be the band’s best. Hart’s wistful, melancholic brooding on this track marks it as one of Flip Your Wig’s stand outs tracks.

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