The Hüsker Dü Album-by-Album thread

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by czeskleba, Oct 2, 2007.

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  1. czeskleba

    czeskleba Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Seattle
    Based on the other thread that's been going, it seems like there is enough interest to do one of these, so here goes.

    Hüsker Dü is interesting in that their early history is not documented on record. They were together for 2 and a half years, performing and making demos, before their first album was released. Their 1979-80 demos are traded by collectors, and feature titles like "Writer's Cramp", "Can't See You Anymore", "All I Got to Lose is You", "The Truth Hurts", "Uncle Ron", and "Do the Bee" among others. The sound is Buzzcocksy punk-pop, and the lyrics for the most part tend toward songs about failed relationships. The only released item from their early period is the "Statues/Amusement" single.

    Then in 1981 they decided to go hardcore. The songs became more political, and they adopted the typical hardcore stance of playing at breakneck speed and not pausing between songs. This led to the first album:

    Land Speed Record (1982)
    1. "All Tensed Up" (Mould) – 2:02
    2. "Don't Try to Call" (Mould) – 1:30
    3. "I'm Not Interested" (Hart) – 1:31
    4. "Guns at My School" (Mould) – 0:55
    5. "Push The Button" (Hart) – 1:48
    6. "Gilligan's Island" (Hart) – 1:23
    7. "M.T.C." (Norton) – 1:09
    8. "Don't Have a Life" (Norton) – 2:09
    9. "Bricklayer" (Mould) – 0:53
    10. "Tired of Doing Things" (Hart) – 0:58
    11. "You're Naive" (Mould) – 0:53
    12. "Strange Week" (Hart) – 0:57
    13. "Do the Bee" (Hart) – 1:49
    14. "Big Sky" (Mould) – 0:57
    15. "Ultracore" (Mould) – 0:47
    16. "Let's Go Die" (Norton) – 1:26
    17. "Data Control" (Hart) – 5:28

    This album is pretty impossible to listen to, in my opinion. I'm not a big fan of hardcore and this approach does make things inaccessible, but that's not what bothers me. It is perhaps the worst-recorded officially released album I've ever heard. I'm not sure of the source of this album, but it sure sounds like an audience tape, and not even a good one at that. There are boots from this era that are professionally recorded and sound much better, so why the band chose to release this I don't know. I can only speculate that the abysmal sound quality was intended as part of the artistic statement, that they wanted it to sound like a amorphous roar of sound rather than individual instruments and voices.

    The person who mastered this for CD did not even bother to index the individual songs, which I guess fits in well with the "who gives a sh**" attitude of the whole affair (admittedly, indexing is not easy as in several cases Grant is starting the beat for the next song while Bob is still playing the last notes of the current song). There are some good songs on here... "Gilligan's Island" has funny lyrics, as does Nortons' "MTC." "Data Control" is a catchy song that became a staple of their final tour. "All Tensed Up" is a Mould ode to uppers. There are some nods to HC politics with "Push the Button" "Ultracore" and "Guns at My School." Interesting to note that Greg Norton was prominent as a songwriter in the early days, before being subsumed by the Mould/Hart juggernaut. It's too bad there are not studio versions or slower versions of most of these songs. All in all, a thoroughly inauspicious debut... possibly the worst debut album ever by a great band.
     

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  2. imagnrywar

    imagnrywar Well-Known Member

    Location:
    San Francisco
    great idea!

    you know, as big a fan as i am, i've never actually owned Land Speed Record. but i have heard it a few times. there's a reason i never went out and bought it - Husker Du was not great at doing the extreme, thrashy hardcore thing (edit: i originally said that Husker Du was not a great hardcore band, period, but that would be inaccurate since they remained a hardcore punk band at least through New Day Rising, in my opinion. rather, i think they just weren't too exciting when playing the particular brand of hardcore captured on Land Speed Record).

    actually, there's another reason i never picked it up. i don't like live albums, especially live hardcore albums. they really just pale in comparison to seeing the actual performance.

    i'll probably pick it up one of these days just to have a complete Husker Du collection. but i HATE CDs that don't index individual tracks, so i guess i'll get the vinyl.
     
  3. Clarkophile

    Clarkophile Up in T.O., keepin' jive alive

    Very cool, Jason! Busy right now, but I'll dive in as soon as I can.
     
  4. Edgard Varese

    Edgard Varese Royale with Cheese

    A very inauspicious debut. Things would get better though... :)
     
  5. Driver 8

    Driver 8 Forum Resident

    Much like R.E.M. in the same 1979-80 period. Like the Hüskers, R.E.M. also threw away an album or two's worth of material when they finally made their first record.

    As for Land Speed Record, I haven't heard it since I was a kid in the 80s. I agree that the band's early hardcore sound, like that of the Replacements' Sorry Ma, Forgot To Take Out the Trash and Stink, has not aged well. My current Hüsker Dü collection begins with Zen Arcade, and I'll wait until we reach that one to chime in again.
     
  6. KenJ

    KenJ Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Flower Mound, TX
    Husker Du was one of my favorite bands around the ZEN ARCADE & NEW DAY RISING era and I've seem them several times in this period.

    I went back and have really enjoyed some tracks on METAL CIRCUS but not LSR.

    I own LAND SPEED RECORD on record. I tried to listen to it back in the mid-80's and it just didn't catch. I tried it again recently and couldn't get through it. To be fair I've never heard the whole thing.

    The old Replacements LPs were different for me. While most tracks weren't appealing there are a few per old lp that I like "GO", "COLOR ME IMPRESSED", "KIDS DON"T FOLLOW" to name three favs. "Go" is acutally one of my fav all time 'mats songs... but I on another band.

    I just haven't found the gems on LSR. My Husker love start starts with METAL CIRCUS. Specifically the songs "DIANE" and "REAL WORLD".


    When I first saw the Huskers I showed up early to Ralph's Diner in Worcester, MA for the show and walked up to the bar for a beer. I then look over and noticed I was sitting next to GRANT HART. That was one of the elements I loved about American Underground rock inthe 80s. At the time I liked these bands as much as the Hippies liked the Rolling Stones in the 60's but they were far more accessible. I only wish I would have taken more pictures and saved more autographs. I do have a tape of the station ID they did after the show (I was on WICN 90.5 FM an NRP affiliate...basically college radio lates nights during "Positive Noise").

    I'll chime in again on METAL CIRCUS....give "Diane" a listen....
     
  7. czeskleba

    czeskleba Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Seattle
    I definitely don't agree with John about the early Mats comparison to early Hüsker. I still think the Replacements' first album is their best, and Stink (despite being a conscious effort to fake hardcore) is still packed with clever, catchy songs.

    What's interesting about Hüsker Dü is that their early sound (captured on the 1979-80 demos) is actually pretty similar to their sound during their peak years of 1985 to 87 (although the material itself is not as good, of course). It's weird that they developed this tuneful punk pop sound and then abandoned it for a couple years to go totally loudfast hardcore. Then they left hardcore and came back and picked up exactly where they'd left off. I was surprised when I first heard those demos. I'd always had the impression they started as hardcore, but it could almost be argued instead that HC was just a temporary stylistic diversion in the same way the Byrds went country for one album.
     
  8. Driver 8

    Driver 8 Forum Resident

    This is so true. I guess I bore some people with my enthusiasm for 80s rock, but I was just the right age for it, having been born in 1968. I grew up worshipping my mother's Beatles records, but when R.E.M., the Replacements, and Hüsker Dü came along right as I entered my teenage years, I could not believe that something so exciting was happening in my lifetime. It was like the 60s all over again, but you could see the bands from five feet away in a small club, which was the positive side of the fact that the mainstream world totally ignored this phenomenon. The first time I saw Hüsker Dü in 1984? at the Brewery in Raleigh, North Carolina, I got up on stage between sets and talked to Bob Mould. I was a star-struck sixteen year old fan, but Bob was nice to me, and actually talked to me. And this sort of thing was par for the course in the scene, or at least before the bands all signed to major labels. There was no Internet, they weren't getting played on the radio, and the only way these bands could get their message across was to get in their van, drive to your town, and rock your socks off at your local hole-in-the-wall indie rock club. And if you went up to them and talked to them after the show, they might end up coming over to your house and smoking a bowl and listening to records until six in the morning. I know I sound just like all the "60s were the best" people, but the 80s were a magic time for rock, one that we'll never see again.
     
  9. imagnrywar

    imagnrywar Well-Known Member

    Location:
    San Francisco
    yeah, that raw, fast brand of hardcore was really popular circa 1981-82, and there are other instances of bands kicking up the tempo and hopping on the bandwagon. Dead Kennedys immediately springs to mind - the first LP is hardcore, to be sure, but its essentially mid-tempo and tuneful songs are clearly rooted in '70s punk and surf music. but the In God We Trust 12" (1981) is mostly thrashy hardcore (which some people dismissed at the time as a lame attempt to imitate Minor Threat and other similar bands). by the time of their next album, they were back to a more moderate, expansive punk/hardcore sound.
     
  10. imagnrywar

    imagnrywar Well-Known Member

    Location:
    San Francisco
    there's internet now, but many bands still operate just as you describe here. unless you live in the middle of nowhere (and even then...), i can almost guarantee that you could find a punk/indie/metal club in your town, pay $5-10 to watch 4 bands, and hang out with them after the show.
     
  11. imagnrywar

    imagnrywar Well-Known Member

    Location:
    San Francisco
    Jason - i hope you're planning on including Metal Circus even though it's a mini-LP. i also think it would be cool if we could expand this to include post-Husker Du projects - Sugar, Bob Mould solo, Grant Hart solo, Nova Mob... are you up for it? i could certainly pick up the slack if you're not familiar with Bob's more recent efforts.
     
  12. Driver 8

    Driver 8 Forum Resident

    Maybe so, but I'm a boring soon-to-be-forty-year-old who no longer drinks and who worries about losing what little hearing he has left after surviving Hüsker Dü, Sugar, and My Bloody Valentine shows when he was young. I'm sure that kids today are making the same magical memories that I did in the 80s. But the 80s were my magical decade. I still love music more than just about anything else in life, but I don't believe in it as a religion the same way I did the night I got onstage to talk to Bob Mould.
     
  13. Great post.
     
  14. czeskleba

    czeskleba Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Seattle
    Being a somewhat OCD guy, I want to cover everything, in chronological order. That includes non-album b-sides and any appearances of rare tracks on compilation albums (the Hüskers did a ton of these). So yes, of course we'll cover Metal Circus (if for no other reason than the song "Diane" is too important to ignore) as well as Barefoot and Pregnant, Kitten, Blasting Concept Volume 2, and all the others. And I do want to continue on to solo careers in order, too, though as you surmised I will need help with the post-Sugar Mould stuff.
     
  15. edb15

    edb15 Well-Known Member

    Location:
    new york
    I like plenty of hardcore, and every other record they did, but I have never gotten into this one. There are a few tunes coming out of the din, but without tight dry studio production, thrash is pretty worthless.

    However, the last time I played LSR, which had to be three or more years ago, I thought it was better than I had before which is to say not total crap. I never followed up.

    Statues, however, is great.
     
  16. jimmydean

    jimmydean Forum Resident

    Location:
    Vienna, Austria
    one of my favourite bands, although i must admit i never heard land speed record... i will come back when metal circus arrives...

    and to add also a comment to the other thread:
    the sound for me is not the problem, nobody wants a hardcore group to have a million dollar studio... i think songwise mould/hart was the best songwriting team since lennon/mccartney, i also not care to much about that they never was as big as nirvana or r.e.m. (although they are the much better group imho).. and mould was with j.mascis the jimi hendrix of the hardcore era..
     
  17. Clarkophile

    Clarkophile Up in T.O., keepin' jive alive

    I threw on Metal Circus for a few moments this morning (and before coffee, I might add).
    It is pretty hilarious how horrible the sound is, but I must say if the same show had been competently recorded it would be pretty thrilling stuff; we might be discussing it with a bit more seriousness and perhaps even some reverence.

    As execrable as the sound is, Bob's guitar is so incredibly huge that at times it sounds like there's about three guys playing different parts. Grant Hart is all over the place, playing what sounds like one busted cymbal and a $50.00 kit. Greg already reveals himself to be a bassist with compelling lines--I've said it before and I'll say it again, he came up with great stuff, when you could hear it.

    I like "Data Control" and "All Tensed Up" best.
     
  18. Clarkophile

    Clarkophile Up in T.O., keepin' jive alive

    Geez, John, you've met Michael Stipe and Bob Mould? If you tell me you met Gene Clark you've won the Tom trifecta.
     
  19. Driver 8

    Driver 8 Forum Resident

    Never met Gene, although I did see Roger McGuinn play with R.E.M. at the Uptown Lounge in Athens in 1988. Like a previous poster noted, one of the hallmarks of the 80s indie scene was the lack of barriers between the bands and their audience. Before the bands signed with major labels, they were playing hole in the wall clubs in your home town. Seeing Hüsker Dü or the Replacements in 1983/84 was like seeing the Beatles at the Cavern or the Who at the Marquee must have been - there was very little distance between the bands and the audience, and just about everyone in the audience was probably in a band, too.
     
  20. I bought it Back In The Day after getting into the Huskers with Zen Arcade and New Day Rising. I listened to it precisely once and then filed it away. Might have to check it out again someday, but everything being said here just reinforces that there's no great need, esp when their catalogue is so full of great stuff.

    Never heard the really early demos to which czeskleba refers, but for me even more jarring than Land Speed... was their "Statues" single. I knew they came out of HC, but to find that even before that they were experimenting with a very different sound was surprising. That first release was in a post-punk vein, one side of which ("Amusement") sounded like slowed-down U2 and the flip ("Statues") betrayed a Joy Division/PIL influence in its up-front, almost funky bassline (a rarity in HD music). I liked it, but it certainly wasn't what I was expecting.
     
  21. Driver 8

    Driver 8 Forum Resident

    The excellent essay on Hüsker Dü in Michael Azzerad's Our Band Could Be Your Life goes into some detail on the band's early post-punk period. If I'm not mistaken, the "Amusement" b/w "Statues" single is collected, along with other early tracks, on the Rhino? Everything Falls Apart CD comp. I lost my copy of the Azzerad book somewhere along the way, but anyone who is interested in learning more about the band's history really ought to check it out. It's the closest thing to a full-length biography of Hüsker Dü that we have.
     
  22. 905

    905 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Southern IL
    Going by the reviews, a new fan should wait before listening to this album.
     
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  23. Clarkophile

    Clarkophile Up in T.O., keepin' jive alive

    I actually got LSR as a birthday gift one year from a friend of mine. He sat with me when I threw it on for the first time. A couple of seconds into it I was thinking "Woof, this really blows." But since he was sitting right there I felt obliged to feign enthusiasm: "This is great!" I said.

    Played it about three times, then filed it away until this morning. Oddly enough, I actually thought it sounded okay coming out of my cheap little computer speakers, as opposed to a main rig. Go figure.:laugh:

    I think of it as Husker Du's baby pictures: Yep, it's you, all right, but it has no real bearing on how you'll look a little later on.
     
  24. seg763

    seg763 Forum Resident

    Location:
    NJ
    despite being a pretty big fan of the band, I've never heard LSR and the comments by those who have confirm my suspicions about this album. Zen Arcade was my first purchase and I did pick up metal Circus and Everything Falls Apart after the fact. Looking forward to commenting on all the subsequent releases.
     
  25. That is a very good book indeed (I recall it quoted Ian Mackaye slagging the band for putting out a debut single that would appeal to college DJs rather than one reflecting their punk sound), and you are correct about the Rhino comp, full title Everything Falls Apart and More. It collects that album, the "Amusement" and "In a Free Land" singles, and an unreleased track (their "theme", a solid punker called "Do You Remember?").
     
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