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New Musical Express, 26 Oct 1985

Review of Flip Your Wig.

Transcriber's note: Richard Cook championed jazz and avant-garde music.
He was later editor of Wire, I think. [Transcribed by Zvia Admon.]

Flip Your Wig Review

by Richard Cook

I've given this some thought. Let's suppose - and it's not a weak notion - that four groups bond together the one significant play in Western music now. The most distant, fragmented sounds emanate from Evan Parker's current quartet; Alex Schlippenbach's sprawling Globe Unity Orchestra take up the next stage; then Ronald Shannon Jackson's Decoding Society hammerlock all those pieces into a set of furious equatorial ricochets. Nearest in, and most violently impacted of all, come Hüsker Dü.

This tiny group that plays so massively slam all the others right into your ear. The scattered chips of Parker are welded into Hüsker Dü's electric wall; the black, wriggling hyperfunk of Jackson is slowed and charged by Mould, Norton and Hart. They play it as pop, a feeble discipline compared with their counterparts' areas, but the one that connects most abruptly with our wary memories. It's easy to recognise Dü's chords and melodies - easier now, in fact, because 'Flip Your Wig' is their clearest recording. But the shrapnel of Hüsker Dü hurts more than any other rock. They desecrate these lovely songs without satire or chic nihilism or sarcasm.

It's a music, a sound, that uses songs to reach into noise. Hüsker Dü's touch is classical - they love the symmetry of tune and bridge - and so they are less 'extreme' than Swans, less wilful and ruined than Neubauten. In their extrovert attack they stumble through the raving magic of Globe Unity, through the concentration of Parker. They seem to hear a high, swirling melody that plays above the one they're playing. Nearly all the tracks sound like a stretching up to something else.

Only a clown could confuse this neanderthal roar with meathead metal. 'Flip Your Wig' has polished some of the seared edges of 'New Day Rising': the singing is squarely within the mix, Mould's guitar is less slicing. But Hüsker Dü have hardly changed their language. They still pile all the weight onto these golden Beatle chords that the song can stand. 'Makes No Sense At All' and 'Games' stagger under the force, and the listener is staggered too.

They can't develop this sound at all. They can only churn, superbly, on the spot. Appropriately, the texts of 'Divide and Conquer', 'Games' and 'Find Me' are about the lonely, hopeless citizen, the one who always locks his doors at night.

At least they resolve all the uneqplained questions of Parker, Globe Unity and Jackson in a starburst that - for the duration of an LP - abides. Like any big bang, when it's over, it's gone.

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