This is an mp3 blog attempting to document the gross amount of music I listen to. About once a day, I'll post something I like. If you're a copyright holder on anything I host, get in touch, and we'll settle things in a steel cage instead of a courtroom.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Husker Du's songs and stories Pt. 1

Back when I wrote about Dick Dale, I mentioned the very tiny percentage of musicians who can claim they invented a genre. While Husker Du did not necessarily invent the wheel, they reinvented rock music in a way that would ultimately spawn a decade-long paradigm of rock music that we're still feeling ripples of.
Most people rightfully regard hardcore as a musical ghetto. Really, with very few exceptions, the only hardcore bands that make a lasting impression are the ones that early on stretched out and resisted the barriers that the thugs in New York and Boston are still imposing on themselves.* Minor Threat veered into proto-emo; Bad Brains threw reggae and metal riffs into their bottled lighting; the Adolescents and Agents Orange amped up surf music for the moshpit generation; MIA and False Prophets threw swing beats around; the Dicks, DOA, and the Big Boys gave in to their fondness for blues, working-class rock, and funk, respectively. (Do I really need to tell you what the Beastie Boys ended up doing?) Hell, of all the hardcore bands today, Paint it Black's odd but completely wonderful choice to work with left-field hip-hop producers Dalek represents really the only thing close to the bands mentioned above.

This all leads us in the most roundabout way possible to the three people that make up the justifiably legendary Husker Du - a dour Midwesterner, a chubby hippie who played barefoot, and a man who resembled a gold prospector. Oh, and they all gobbled speed and acid like it was going bad. And, in one of the most militant, macho scenes in the country, two of them were out homosexuals. They also took a musical form designed for wrist-snapping tempos and barked slogans and used it as a springboard to make a double-LP concept album that was written, recorded, and mixed in 3 days. Clearly, theirs is an interesting story.

Like all great indie bands, the Huskers were founded by intelligent slackers who spent too much time in record store. Bob Mould and Grant Hart, the future Lennon and McCartney of the underground dwellers, were two diametrically opposed forces with nothing in common but he Ramones and psychedelic pop and whose songs put their personalities naked on the dissection slab. Mould is the sneering, wounded malcontent bellowing against the world, while Hart is the holdover from 60's, all airy melodies and earnest, misplaced romanticism. Together they were honey and lemon, rose and thorn. In the process, they fused hardcore punk and hippie pop, basically inventing the 90's. While I know Smells Like Teen Spirit blah blah blah Spoon Man blah blah blah Jeremy blah blah blah, Husker Du's eventual contract with Warner Brothers was the reason you weren't listening to Poison in 1995.
It all started innocuously enough, with the live album Land Speed Record not giving away too much of what was to come. There was no indication at all that the hardcore thrash band behind such ditties as "Punch Drunk" and "Let's Go Die" would produce the bitter, heartfelt classic "Everything Falls Apart." Endless touring did what it used to do in the day before instant MySpace gratification, which is get the band noticed, eventually signing to SST. They recorded Metal Circus, which was meant to be an LP but due to shortages in the recording budget and power outages in the studio, ended up being a long EP. It consisted mostly of Mould's hateful rantings, but Hart's two contributions were the best songs on the release. "It's Not Funny Anymore" is a better kiss off than Mould's "Real World" and "Diane" creeps me out to this day, no matter how many episodes of SVU I catch on TV.
Other than Hart's songs, Metal Circus showcased for the first time Mould's molten lava guitar, a Flying V played at trebly, distorted levels to give the effect of both melodicism and meltdown. It sounds unlike any other guitar tone I've ever heard, and it's on full display on what some consider their zenith, the sprawling Zen Arcade. An ambitious concept album that went from conception to creation in less than four days and featured the story of a disillusioned runaway trying to find solace in cults and drugs before giving up and going home. It's an emotional gun in the mouth and a work of art that leaves most of its contemporaries in miles of dust. They had spent so many months occupying the same house, jamming 8-10 hours a day while Hart dropped acid every 24 hours and they all gobbled speed that they had formed this cracked-windshield rapport that allowed the most minuscule of idea to blossom into fully formed songs that modern day hacks are still copping and dudes like me are still boggled by years later. God knows how many of my days have been spent with "Whatever" on loop, my bleary eyes looking at nothing outside a window.
While I'm going to leave off here (there's gotta be some story to tell later), just trust me that even more awesome music is to come. Sometimes I'm just too damn drunk to write.

*Of course, try explaining this to Andrea when she's stuck in a car with me for 12 hours with nothing but my farts and Kid Dynamite CDs. I'm lucky she loves me, 'cause she has to put up with a lot.

Everything Falls Apart -

It's Not Funny Anymore -

Broken Home, Broken Heart -

Never Talking to You Again -


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