US - Minnesota - Full Moon 122 - 09/07/06
Through the retro-scope
Anniversary Album of the Moonth
Candy Apple Grey
This is a piece in a series of 12 Luna Kafé desserts, presenting a dozen of records celebrating their 40th, 30th, 20th or 10th birthday this year 2006. I've chosen three out of each "class". Classics, milestones, favourites. You name it. Some among the global masses, others maybe in smaller circuits only. Maybe we could group them under the moniker "Pet Records" - to re-name one of the many 40-year-olds of 2006.
Hüsker Dü surely is (along with R.E.M. and Sonic Youth) one of the most important and influential band out of the US post punk era of the early 1980s. The Minneapolis three-piece fuelled their engine as early as 1979, and their stampede hardcore roar of punk-rock sure came as a welcome blast when speed and sound mostly had turned into more of a controlled kind of thing. Hüsker Dü didn't compromise - their wild debut, Land Speed Record (1981), was recorded live, and it spat out 17 songs in less than 30 minutes. The beast needed some taming, and the following year their first "regular" album (well, mini, or EP), Everything Falls Apart, came out. But the band moved on (not to mention all over the US indie club land), and after signing to hardcore label no.1, SST, they released the monumental double (!) album, Zen Arcade in 1984. From the start guitarist Bob Mould wrote most of the songs. But more and more he and drummer Grant Hart shared the song writing, singing lead vocals on their respective ones. Bassist Greg Norton did co-write a few songs (plus his early angry-piece "Let's Go Die"), but he seemed to be more on the 'quiet side'. Except his propelling bass drive. The energetic band was legendary live, with the two afore-mentioned gents giving everything, while the moustached Norton was more of a steady and controlled dude (and maybe the 'glue' to hold the pair of frantic together as a unit, or the guard to keep them apart?). With Zen Arcade being sort of a breakthrough, Hüsker Dü didn't put on the brakes. The following year they slammed a double with a smashing pair of albums; New Day Rising and Flip Your Wig, showing more and more pop elements mixed with rage and energy from beyond. Then Warner Brothers came by... Would the monster noise-pop turn totally mainstream?
Nope. When their major label debut Candy Apple Grey hit the streets in 1986 it was not a polished . Opener "Crystal" is the sound of exploding glass. Then one of Hart's most catchy songs ever, "Don't Want To Know If You Are Lonely", dives out of the speakers. What a punchy start! Candy Apple Grey (not sure if the WB bosses were all to happy about such title for a major debut...) holds 10 songs, and the trademark Hüsker Dü full power, foam at the mouth rock-roar is there from the very start. And there's pop inside the raging fury. Beauty and beast in one. A swan turning beautiful. Six Mould songs, four by Hart. Hart creating the more catchy ones (I've already mentioned "Don't Want To Know If...", "Sorry Somehow" is another example, "Dead Set On Destruction" a third), Mould making the sour-sad, touching songs that spike your skin, going for your veins. Like "Too Far Gone", or the painful suffer-tale "Hardly Getting Over It". I'm not saying that Mould didn't write catchy pop songs, 'cause he did (still does). Just check out "All This I've Done For You", or "Eiffel Tower High", which is a true classic.
Candy Apple Grey is quite short and intense, and it's a great listen 20 years after, even though the production is a bit on the treble side. But, that's Hüsker Dü in a nutshell. It's treble with a cause. And, well, I find the Hart-ballad "No Promise Have I Made" on (if not over) the edge, almost being tacky. That said Candy Apple Grey is recommended, but maybe not the place to start out with the Hüskies.
In 1987 Hüsker Dü put out another double album, Warehouse: Songs and Stories, but it turned out to become their swan-song. Tensions between Mould and Hart had risen over the years. Then, suddenly, just before the Warehouse tour their manager committed suicide. Meaning the end of the band? Not yet. The band toured all through the year, but broke up in early 1988. Still, we do remember...
Copyright © 2006 Håvard Oppøyen