Zen Arcade really clicked with me this year. A combination of post-brexit/Trump isolation, disillusionment and anger drew me back to hardcore and this album really fills a void. Funny things I remember dismissing it as dull when I first heard it 10 years ago (though I was moving away from rock around this time). It's interesting that now, being more knowledgable, I totally see it terms of the mid 80s - early 90s rock continuum; The Jesus and Mary Chain through to MBV. Only listened to New Day Rising otherwise and agree, not too keen overall. I prefer Mould on Zen but weirdly prefer the Hart tracks on New Day Rising! Will now spend my free evening today Flippin' My Wig!
i think of those years (mid-80s to mid-90s) as "years of exile" when the right-shifted political mainstream seemed impregnable and a lot of the music of that era was about withdrawal, defeat, hopeless dreams of an elsewhere.... so perhaps that resonates with the present. i haven't had the urge to listen to Husker Du or Dinosaur or Replacements in an age but feels vaguely relevant again. JMC / spacemen 3 / MBV definitely the UK chapter of the same disenfranchised / escape-into-noiseclouds impetus
The problem I had/have with Husker Du is the same with a lot of late 80's music - loud noise with no aggression.I finally figured out why I've never liked Prince, and it's for a similar reason - he was all sex and no violence.Then of course you had Anthrax, Megadeth etc. who were all violence and no sex.Probably one of the unremarked features of 80's rock & pop, the division of the taboos, so that violence and sex get hived off into specialist genres (Man 2 Man!) with a general blandening of both the mainstream and "indie". R.E.M. and New Order are examples of the latter - very tame bands, subject matter wise.
i dunno Phil, think there's quite lot of something like aggression - anger, frustration - certainly in the earlier Husker - the punkier songs on Zen Arcade. they certainly seem to have been a combustible bunch, wired on speed from what I gather. later on the songs do get more "rise above" saintly harmony in vibe i's true.
Phil Knight lives!A test of how much love H Du gets is how much one can stand Mould's voice. Fans of his such as me hears in his timbre bitterness, rage hopelessness, a precursor to Kurt Cobain in that way. Non fans may blame him for 90s alt-rock and the calcifying of that v quickly into an accepted style; whine rock
Whose line was it about Nirvana: "A great fusion of Husker Du-style music with Bob Mould-style vocals"?
But I only live in comments sections nowadays.The problem with writing books is that to really sell them, you need to become a public figure (ugh!) And becoming a public figure invariably tends to make people a bit cartoonish i.e. I'd probably end up becoming Brendan O'Neill, but with Spengler quotes.Anyway, another thing about Husker Du is that the drum sound is terrible - like tupperware. I believe this is a generic problem with SST records produced by Spot - he never used to mic the drums properly.
Not only the drum sound, IMO: Grant Hart is just not all that interesting a player. Masters the loud fast thrash well enough, but as the tempos slow down and a bit of subtlety, creativity or feel would help, he's not up to it.And that's where the snide Nirvana comparisons (see above) fall down. Dave Grohl is a terrific drummer.
Here he is doing his best Grant Hart impersonation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XHjHBojMsRs
i think Grant is a fine drummer - and on "Reoccurring Dreams" absolutely terrific, the skitter and cymbal-splash of his playing perfectly suits the (com)motion of that epic non-tune.I wonder how Husker Du would have sounded if Butch Vig had done them. i think the under-production and cheapo thin is part of their grey-haze vibe. you wouldn't want the vocals more in your face or articulated, you wouldn't want a big thick 90s drum sound. Same way that Go4's Entertainment!-era songs sounded all wrong when they rerecorded them in the mid-2000s
Do you think these bands would have been your favourites if you'd wandered more into the "forbidden" when you were younger Simon?I'm pretty sure my wide(ish) tastes were/are purely the result of sticking my nose up at the thought of AC/DC when I was young. If I'd discovered them at 18 or 25, that would have been it for me as far as rock music was concerned - I think they are twice as good as the next best band, regardless of genre. So I sort of missed out and yet gained, as it were.
I always liked AC/DC's singles... I have the vague memory sense that they were considered one of the few metal band / hard rock group it was okay to like if you were New Wave /postpunk minded. Maybe because it was pretty stripped down and focused, and there was a very evident sense of humour and even a hint of irony. Them and Motorhead were considered acceptable / cool in that NME sort of world. Oh and ZZ Top, a little later on, was the third of the token acceptable hard'n'heavy bands. Again cos of the humour and it being quite unindulgent and to the point catchy music (not as much as AC/DC of course)I never bought any AC/DC records then but I did buy some ZZ Top records.The real outlawed zone for me - in the sense of music banished by postpunk taste edicts, that you then discovered was actually great music, with an exhilarating sense of expanding your boundaries combined with the sinful frisson of forbidden fruit - was the older heavy metal of the 70s. Above all Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath. I think it was a reviewer pointing out that Black Flag owed as much to Sabbath as to Sex Pistols that got me interested. Also i had a friend with very open ears who in addition to worshipping the Ramones and having Throbbing Gristle albums also had Sabbath records. Hearing "Iron Man" and "War Pigs" was quite the revelation.I do remember being so postpunk indoctrinated that listening to a guitar solo felt really transgressive and like an illegal form of ecstasy tinged with disgust. Hendrix was the gateway drug. I don't think comparing Husker Du to AC/DC makes a lot of sense though. It's kind of incommensurate categories. Different aims. Husker weren't interested in / capable of raunch. Nor were they really heavy. It was fast/loud hardcore opening up to Sixties influences with the Byrdsy vocals and the minor key melodies and plaintiveness. More about the blur of the sound.
I suppose I'm only making comparisons in the sense of the amount of joy particular bands give me. One thing I've noticed as I get older, in comparison to when I was an adolescent, is that I no longer need music as a kind of emotional crutch, or emotional intensifier.So I tend to have a fairly utilitarian approach to music nowadays - does it, mechanically, really rock; does it energize me? Motorhead are the second best band for doing this after AC/DC, imho. I'm just amazed at how good those two bands were, and how uninterested I was when they were in their prime.I know what you mean about Led Zep. I was part of the generation after yours, and I remember how weird everyone thought it was at the time (say 1982/83) to listen to old music. On some of the lockers at school I would see felt-tip graffiti of old band names that had been there years - Mott The Hoople, Rich Kids, Tom Robinson Band - and it looked like Egyptian hieroglyphics. It was completely meaningless, because at the time there was no real attempt to hold a collective memory of popular music's past. Clips of the Beatles on TV were like clips of Spitfires or Winston Churchill. That series on the BBC in the mid-Eighties, "The Rock and Roll Years" was the first attempt I remember to really create a coherent narrative of pop/rock history.
that's a good point Phil - definitely as i've grown older i don't feel that emotional need as regards music - i'm not looking to it to mirror my own feelings so much, or acts as a source of solace or "someone else feels the way i do" supportyou do listen more, as you get older, in a way that's about pure musicality, or formal qualities. for instance in the Eighties I had minimal interest in African music because it sounded quite light to my ears - this jangly beatific guitar sound - it didn't have the Dionysian romantic appeal of the Young Gods or the cathartic release/abandon of all the noisy rock of that time, MBV etc. But now I love listening to African music and enjoy its sunny life-enhancing qualities alongside appreciating the unusual structures and the way it moves differently. the fact that i don't understand the words is irrelevant.that's another point actually - with bands, it's not just the sound or the degree to which it rocks - it's the whole package - the words, the emotions, the "what they're about" aspect. So much AC/DC are a raunch powerhouse, or Motorhead are an unparalleled blast - at that time (teenage / early 20s) they wouldn't have spoken to me on the worldview / life-stance / emotional spectrum / lyrics front. whereas the postpunk outfits or Smiths or Husker or Replacements or MBV did. It is a words-and-music proposition, rock. Words, music - and personalities. That's fantastic, your comparison of Beatles clips to Spitfires. They didn't seem that long ago to me - being born in 63 and remembering Yellow Submarine and All You Need is Love in real-time - but what did seem very sepia-tinted and from-another-era-altogether was rock'n'roll. Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Buddy Holly - seemed impossibly creaky and quaint. The only things that felt like they weren't "golden oldies" but still quite modern in some way when you heard them on the radio were "Summertime Blues" and "Shakin' All Over".at my school my peers seemed to all have older brothers who'd determined their music taste, so the desks were covered in logos for Genesis, Floyd, Led Zep, Yes - perfectly executed by-hand reproductions. i would trying to fight back with the PiL logo and there was a dude who kept writing the logo for The Yachts. but new wavers were in the vast minority at my school even in 79-80.