The same issue of
that contained the big Hüsker Dü
feature also offered this review of
Warehouse: Songs And Stories.
Warehouse: Songs And Stories
Enjoy life at a realistic pace, you crazy youngsters, what with your night life and everything." So says Bob Mould, who used to play guitar at such an unrealistic pace that Hüsker Dü became a hardcore legend for sheer velocity, on an inner sleeve of their new two-LP set, WAREHOUSE: SONGS AND STORIES. A picture on the back cover, furthermore, gives the impression that these guys could have been the backup band on "Mellow Yellow." The Hüskers have changed a lot since the hammering thrash of songs like "Punchdrunk" and "Bricklayer," and in the process they've become self-appointed chroniclers of the human condition. Fortunately, they wear this role well.
Their music, as on the first four other albums they've recorded since leaving the hardcore ranks, is still gutbustingly fierce and loud. But it has the graceful power of a jet plane, and especially in Mould's songs, it carries some awfully tasty melodies. (Drummer Grant Hart's still a little stiff in his songwriting.)
The Hüskers seem to have decided on their mode. Unlike their Warners debut, CANDY APPLE GREY, which introduced an acoustic instrument (!) or two and contained two or three stylistic experiments, WAREHOUSE is pretty homogeneous. Heavily amped guitar and sharp drums (the drums are recorded much better than they are on the SST records) dominate, with an occasional poking through of faceless Greg Norton's bass. This sameness is really a good move; it gives the album integrity and cumulative power. And by no means are all the songs the same. They're distinct, well-conceived, hummable. Among the best are "Could You Be The One?", "Friend, You've Got To Fall" and "Up In The Air," all by Mould, all highlighted by gorgeous choruses, and a couple of darker numbers, "Ice Cold Ice" (Mould) and "Too Much Spice" (Hart). Hart sneaks in some subtle variation in "Actual Condition," the rockabilly tinge of which I finally decided wasn't my imagination, and "She Floated Away," which someone tells me is based on a Celtic folk melody (it does sound familiar).
But Mould gets the best of this record. His tunes are far more complex, fuller, than Hart's simple patterns, and he writes the more compelling lyrics. Fans of the Hüskers will know what I mean when I say that they always talk, ultimately, about the same thing, but it's hard to define that thing. It has to do with the inevitable isolation of the human; it's also about powerlessness in a confusing world, about losses, about dealing with losses, about disappointments, about scary things, about friendship, about caring, about trying not to care. Mould and Hart write song after song about aspect after aspect of this big subject. Sometimes their writing is disjointed and illogical, as on "No Reservations" by Mould, which has good lines ilke "Like a shingle on a roof in a windstorm/Should I let loose and fly?", but doesn't connect them well.
When Mould and Hart connect, though, they often hit a nerve; they express feelings for you, which is one of the best things pop lyrics can do. In "Up In The Air," Mould sings, in that open yowl he's made into a convincing instrument, "Poor bird flies up in the air/Never getting anywhere/ And how much misery can one soul take?/Trying to get away might have been your first mistake." In "Friend, You've Got To Fall," he sings, "I can see your life disintegrating/Into ashes in your hands/And I know you wouldn't want to tell me/What is wrong 'cause you're a man." A more subtle line, from "Ice Cold Ice," runs, "We sit and count the blessings but we're blessed by icons/No one else could trust in ice cold ice."
Hart puts some good words together, too, to give him his due: "Your thoughts are dead and you've still got some time to kill/And you're coloring your life with too much spice." "She Floated Away," an eerie little tale, has a line that I'm not sure I understand but like: "A man has two reasons for things that he does/The first one is pride and the second one is love/All understanding must come by this way..."
What saves Hüsker Dü's lyrics from their occasional sketchiness and obscurity, and from preachiness, is an honesty and commitment that one doesn't often see in pop stars. They run head on into the real world in song after song, and the situations described are honest and familiar. Combined with what's still a monster musical attack, this commitment to realism makes WAREHOUSE a great, mature work. It's a record to identify with, and one doesn't see that very often either.
by Pete Wilson
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