From Academic Kids

Hüsker Dü was an influential rock music group from Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota, comprising guitarist/vocalist Bob Mould, bass guitarist Greg Norton, and drummer/vocalist Grant Hart. Mould and Hart split the songwriting duties about evenly. Hüsker Dü was never widely popular, but had an impact much larger than their modest sales figures would indicate.

Hüsker Dü first gained notice as a hardcore punk band with thrashing tempos and screamed vocals, but also with a melodic, soulful edge that became more pronounced in the band's mid-career, as they drifted away from their early sound. They were also a striking trio on stage — far different from the typical hardcore band of the time — with Mould's hulking, doughy presence shouting angrily at stage left, offset by the generally unkempt, long-haired Hart flailing on the drums, and the lanky, good-natured Norton, who sported a waxed handlebar mustache for most of the band's career.

Hüsker Dü broke with the anti-traditionalist ethos of most early hardcore bands. Their early songwriting shows the influence of folk, '1960s pop music, blues, and other forms (although often buried under a thick layer of angst and aggression), and has a strong melodic sense. The lyrics made astute, sharp personal and social commentary, showing a great deal of vulnerability and sympathy for their subjects. Hüsker Dü's songwriting was widely admired, and their live shows were often a venue for brilliant improvisational playing. (A feedback-laden solo guitar performance from an early-'80s soundcheck tape merited release via the avant-garde Telus Magazine.) Hüsker Dü was also, however, widely regarded as somewhat unusual-sounding in their early prime, due to the instruments' non-standard tones: Mould's guitar is described below, while Hart's drums were considered 'thumpy' (and he consistently played slightly behind the beat); Norton played bass fairly laconically even at fast tempos, using his fingers rather than a pick. The band's sound can be considered an organic synthesis of these elements -- a unit that was quite powerful in combination, yet perhaps difficult to parse singly.

A particular strength of the group was the two powerhouse singer/songwriters, Mould and Hart. The tension between their musical styles (Mould was generally the angrier songwriter, Hart the more melodic one), and their willingness to collaborate, made the sum of their contributions greater than their parts. Another strength was Mould's unique, resonant guitar sound, described by a critic at the time as "molten metal pouring from the speakers." Mid-period Hüsker Dü songs are immediately recognizable via Mould's incandescent guitar tone, achieved by splitting the signal in the studio between amplified and direct tones and adding a light stereo chorus effect. Mould's technique involved playing resonant drone notes on the high strings. Although a trio, Hüsker Dü generally sounded extremely large on record and live.

The group is also notable as one of the first 1980s American underground rock bands to contract with a major record label, a move that blazed the trail for the rise of so-called alternative rock a few years later. Another key Minneapolis band who served as an alternative-rock icebreaker was The Replacements, who had a friendly rivaly with Hüsker Dü.

Contents

History

In a 1984 interview, Hart reports that Hüsker Dü had their origins in a group called Three Guys With Skinny Ties (presumably a new wave ensemble, given that music's fondness for slender neckties). Hart and Norton's tone throughout the interview seems tongue in cheek; they offer slightly absurd, gently antagonistic replies, perhaps calling into question the honesty of their statements. [1] (http://www.thirdav.com/zinestuff/ht1.html) — According to Michael Azerrad's exhaustively-interviewed Our Band Could Be Your Life, the group that became Hüsker Dü formed when Mould, Hart, Norton and keyboardist Charlie Pine began playing together in 1978. They were soon gigging, playing mostly cover songs, some classic rock, and frequent Ramones tunes. Unbeknownst to Pine, the remaining bandmembers disliked their sound, and began practicing without him, writing a few originals.

They owed their new name to a sloppy rehersal of the Talking Heads' "Psycho Killer". Unable to recall the French portions sung in the original ("qu'est-ce que c'est...") , they began shouting any foreign-language terms they could remember, when someone said "Husker Du", a board game from Denmark that had been popular in the 1960's (the phrase means "do you remember?"). The group added Heavy metal umlauts, and had their new name. Mould reports that they liked Hüsker Dü's somewhat mysterious qualities, which set them apart from other harcore punk groups with names like "Social Red Youth Dynasty Brigade Distortion" (Azerrad, 162). Mould also reported that while Hüsker Dü enjoyed much hardcore punk in general, they never thought of themselves as exclusively a hardcore group, and that their name was an attempt to avoid being pigeonholed.

The newly-monikered group had their first official performance in early 1979. In an unexpected act at that gig, one of Hart's friends unplugged Pine's keyboards and gave him the finger. The remaining musicians made no objection, and Hüsker Dü formally became a trio.

By 1980 they were writing lots of original songs, and their music evolved into a fast, ferocious, primal sound, making them one of the original hardcore punk bands. Also in 1980, punk trailblazers Black Flag were visiting Chicago, and Hüsker Dü scored a gig at an after-party. Hart says that "We were on a mission to impress the hell out of Black Flag." (Azerrad, 163). Their furious performace deteriorated into a fight with a club employee after Hart kicked his drums from the bandstand and Mould began splattering the club with blue paint. Black Flag were duly impressed, and their endorsement certainly helped Hüsker Dü; the groups would later tour together.

The band started releasing singles on Terry Katzman's Reflex Records in 1981. Their first two albums, Land Speed Record (a live recording) and Everything Falls Apart , brought much critical praise. Determined touring brought them to the attention of The Minutemen, who released their debut and the In A Free Land single on their label, New Alliance Records. This, in turn, led to the band signing with Greg Ginn's SST Records.

The Metal Circus mini-album was released in 1983, and is regarded by some fans as their best effort. The next year saw the release of, Zen Arcade, a double album, regarded by most as their crowning achievement. Zen Arcade is a concept album following a boy who leaves home to face a harsh and unforgiving world. Its artistic and conceptual ambitions were a great stretch, given the purist sentiment them prevalent in U.S. punk rock.

Zen Arcade received signifigant mainstream attenion (including a glowing Rolling Stone review by Mikal Gilmore, who compared the record to landmark albums like London Calling and Exile on Main Street), and appeared on many magazines' year-end best-of lists. In fact, the album was so well-received that SST -- a small, nearly shoestring operation -- had problems pressing enough copies to keep in stock for stores.

Followups New Day Rising and Flip Your Wig continued musical exploration, while tempering the speed and volume. Opinions differ widely as to their comparative importance and quality.

Although by this time the band had an international appeal, they continued to play in and support the local Twin Cities music scene. In a nod to the band's Minneapolis roots, 1985's Makes No Sense At All EP featured the theme song to the Mary Tyler Moore, which was set in Minneapolis.

Also by the mid-1980's, rumors had begun to circulate that one of Hüsker Dü's members was homosexual. Many assumed it was Norton, due in part to his handlebar mustache. Mould reports that Norton took the whispers and occasional taunts in stride: "I have never encountered anybody who was so patient with that kind of bullshit." (Azerrad, 179). In fact, both Mould and Hart were homosexual--Azerrad described both men's sexual orientation as something of an open secret among their peers--but despite continued rumors to the contrary, Mould and Hart were never lovers. According to Hart, both he and Mould occasionally took partners on tour, but Azerrad also quotes Hart's flat denial of claims that he and Mould were ever romantically involved: "It would have been fuckin' bullshit." (Azerrad, 179)

In 1986 the band signed to Warner Brothers Records. Many of Hüsker Dü's peers saw the band's deal with Warner Brothers as a sell out. Others did not: Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore sought Mould's advice when his own group, Sonic Youth, was being courted by major labels. The young Warners executivess who forged the deal saw Hüsker Dü as a 'prestige signing,' never expecting to make much money on the band, but backing them as a statement against the mainstream rock climate of the time, in which exciting new artists were typically excluded from major distribution, MTV visibility, and major press coverage. Their goal was to make a statement that Warner Brothers was willing to put its money where its mouth was, signing a band that many industry professionals admired, but were reluctant to sign.

Their two albums on Warner Brothers, Candy Apple Grey and Warehouse: Songs and Stories (a double album), show the band as more mature psychologically and musically, though, again, opinions among fans differ as to whether these changes were worthwhile. Both albums scored a few modest hits (primarily on college radio) and appeared briefly on the low end of the Billboard charts.

By this point, the tension between Mould and Hart had become irresoluble. To make matters worse, drug problems (mainly Hart's heroin use) were hurting the band, while Mould was trying to overcome his own alcoholism and amphetemines use. By 1988 they were no longer able to work together; Hart either quit or was ejected from the band (recollections differ), which promptly collapsed. The Living End, a live collection, was released after the band's demise.

Mould and Hart have continued making music, albeit separately; this work has included solo albums and forming the successful alternative bands, Sugar and Nova Mob, respectively. Norton became a chef.

Mould and Hart did a brief, unannounced reunion in 2004 at a benefit concert for Soul Asylum drummer Karl Mueller, who had been receiving treatment for cancer. At the end of what had been scheduled as a Bob Mould solo set, he brought Hart out and the duo played two selections from the Hüsker Dü repertoire, "Hardly Getting Over It" and "Never Talking To You Again".

Influence

Hüsker Dü's most lasting legacy was perhaps in bridging the gap between hardcore and alternative rock. Many later musicians cite Hüsker Dü as an influence on their own work (Pixies being one notable example).

Therapy? scored a British hit with their haunting cover of Hart's "Diane", first released on Metal Circus.

The group's career is chronicled in Our Band Could Be Your Life, a study of several important American underground rock groups.

Dennis Cooper's novel 'Try' contains many references to and lines from the 'New Day Rising' album.

Name

The group's name is a modified version of "Husker Du?", which means "Do You Remember?" in Danish and Norwegian, and is also the name of a board game which was first distributed in the 1950s by Pressman[2] (http://pressmantoy.com/). The game has macrons instead of umlauts ("Hūsker Dū?"). See also: Heavy metal umlaut The board game proclaimed itself a game "in which the child can outwit the adult."

"Husker Du" is also the name of an old TV show in Norway. The show is about old (musical) hits and its on air for more than 30 years.

Personnel

Discography

Singles

  • Statues, 1981
  • In A Free Land, 1982
  • Eight Miles High, 1984
  • Makes No Sense At All, 1985
  • Could You Be The One?, 1987
  • Ice Cold Ice, 1987

Albums


EPs

  • Metal Circus, 1983
  • Sorry Somehow, 1986
  • Don't Want To Know If You Are Lonely, 1986

Sources

External links

es:Hüsker Dü nl:Hüsker Dü

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