Mould, Grant Hart and Greg Norton started rehearsing
together and formed a band named after a 50's board
game in the late 70's. As they released a few obscure
hardcore albums beginning in the early 80's, it became
evident that they were starting to expand their sound.
While hardcore punk of the early 80's had started its
decline by this time, a completely new group of musicians
were making their away around the underground and across
the country. The most prominent figures of this new
scene were the boys of Husker Du, who managed to invent
something different and refreshing enough to change
music as we know it.
of the most important records released during the post-punk
surge of 1984, Husker Du's phenomenal double album Zen
Arcade has stood the test of time as a testament to
that period's musical style. After their early metal
releases, the Huskers refined their attack and debuted
on indie label SST with this album. Almost unheard of
at the time in the underground scene was Husker's decision
to release a double album. Not only that, but it also
turned out to be a loose concept album, telling of a
boy's life experiences much like the Who's "Tommy".
Right from the opening bassline of the album, the listener
can tell they're in for a roller coaster ride of a musical
experience. Bob Mould's fuzzy powerchord melodies and
outrageous solos power the band's driving attack. Grant
Hart's drumming shows an obvious influence of punk,
but he throws in several variations to keep the rhythm
fresh. And as always, Norton's basslines are pounding
and occasionally have some great hooks that are able
to single-handedly string songs together, like on "Broken
Home, Broken Heart".
While Husker Du exhibits their anger on several tracks
that are unforgivingly abrasive and loud, they do manage
to exhibit a more musically evolved side with an acoustic
track "Never Talking to You Again", a few
well crafted, melodic pop tunes such as "Someday"
and "Pink Turns to Blue" and some experimental
instrumental tracks (including the roughly 13 minute
long finale). Bob Mould's exceptional songwriting really
shines here, and Grant Hart's mini-masterpiece "Turn
On the News" proves that they were an incredible
writing team. (It also should be noted that when Mould
isn't screaming/yelling into the mike, he does manage
to come off as a decent singer.)
Husker Du's post-punk masterpiece seemingly never gets
the recognition it deserves. While a touchstone for
80's underground fans, you'd be hard pressed to find
one person in twenty that's even heard of the band today.
If you ever get the chance, pick up this album even
if it is slightly expensive. (It is a double album after
all). It shouldn't be missed.