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New Musical Express, 22 Mar 1986

NME review of Candy Apple Grey. [Transcribed by Zvia Admon.]

Review by Danny Kelly

         Typical, Bloody typical! Like one of those much-vaunted singing goldfish that mortify their owners by mainaining a dumb, glum silence when their big moment arrives on TvAM or That's Life, so Hüsker Dü, having been force-fed to the public by an adoring music press, deliver a first major-label LP that refuses to straightaway scream "Classic!".
         If made by any other band, indeed, 'Candy Apple Grey' could be thought of, initially, as a disappointment. But Hüsker Dü are like no other band. Each of their previous albums has been a relative, rather than a clone, of all the others, so 'CAG' needs judging both on its own merits and as a part of the unfolding raiment of a group that eight out of ten cats currently proclaim The Best Rock Band In The Universe Etc, Etc Etc....
         So what's new this time? well, it's Hüsker Dü's most trad effort to date; ten songs, a shower instead of the usual blizzard, none less than a sedate two minutes 27. It's more familiar in tone too, as the Hüskers' Cinerama saw-toothed howl is tempered here and there [by] noises, ideas and shapes (hell, three of these things are ballads!!) gathered from America's museums and rubbish tips.
         In short, 'Candy Apple Grey' finds Hüsker Dü - always deliberately restless, masochistically experimental - passing close, like some unannounced cousin of Halley's hyped-up thing, to Planet Rock. A collision or a triumphal flypast? the next LP will tell...
         'CAG' also finds the band in disturbed, depressed mood. Apart from the single and Bob Mould's 'Makes No Sense' retread 'I Don't Know For Sure', the record is disbelieving, unnerved, bleak and haunted throughout by snapshot shadows (nothing is plain here) of mirrors and hallucinogens - twisters of reality, inducers of doubt. 'Crystal', the opener, crashlands with a slow-motion explosion, the sonic approximation of a drug that "shatters your brain in a million tiny pieces", and the sleeve could've timewarped straight from the (very) late '80.
         So America's most strange/ordinary trio (Darryl Hall, Animal Muppet and The Thing in one group!!) are at their most musically approachable, while simultaneously weirding (far) out, and down.
         The result is that of all their records, this one makes the least immediate impact. Whereas first exposures to 'Zen Arcade', 'New Day Rising' and 'Flip Your Wig' blithely unveiled jewels - some raw, some polished - of ferocity and beauty, and early contact with 'Land Speed Record' had you reaching for the Aspirin and praying for deafness, 'Candy Apple Grey' elicits far more autumnal responses. The only thing it shares absolutely with its elders, and the thing that will draw you back to it and allow it to reveal its true nature, is a pervasive sense of mystery....
Yes, mystery.... or something. Some groups have it, others don't. Simple, or complex, as that. Hüsker Dü, even without the irresistable physical fireworks of their live onslaughts, hook into your (real and received) memory (their name means Do You Remember?) and nag nag nag at your attention.
         Thus Grant Hart's 'Sorry Somehow', on the surface too long and clogged with Rock, comes to magnificently balance offhand arrogance with a profound sense of regret, of yearning. And Mould's brace of wrist-slitters ('Too Far Down' and 'Hardly Getting Over It'), awkward, mawkish and out of place in any usual scheme of Hüsker doodlings, eventually find a haven in the group's more familiar sonic quakes.
         'Candy Apple Grey' may not be classic Hüsker Dü (only time will tell) but it's still a hell of a record. At its worst, it's a pausing for breath and rather mournful reappraisal; at its best it's another jet-spurt (their third in 12 months, don't forget) of one of the few truly great bands on the planet.

         "We'll take our music, all music, forward, to new places... blah... blah..."

         Thousands of groups talk... Hüsker Do.

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