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New Musical Express, 14 September 1985

London Marquee gig review

Dü what you do to me!
by Mat Snow

I was going to sign this piece off, "Once more Hüsker Dü prove themselves to be the most primally exciting group on the surface of the planet burble burble burble.." That was certainly true of their incandescent performance at the Camden Palace on 14 May, so what gives now?

What gives now may well have something to do with a boy named Lou. Hüsker Dü have forsaken the mixing talents of the notorious Spot, and hired Lou to enhance their clarity, vocal-wise. And from what I'm told of the new album, 'Flip Yer Wigg' (sic) he's done a grand job, but live....

'Twas the forthcoming LP's title track that kicked off proceedings tonight, a speedy, cheerful number followed by another very similar to sweep away the cobwebs. Third out of the traps, the new single 'Makes No Sense At All', congealed what was wrong into focus. 'Sense' is a splendidly tuneful 45, but live it sounded like, say, a record of 'Kick out The Jams'-period MC5 tackling a 1964 Beatles song played on an exceedingly fluffy stylus.

Bob Mould's Flying-V produced just the trebly end of its usual symphonic fanfare of roaring harmonics and aural fallout, and Grant Hart's drums rattled their cage but not my ribs. As for the shcreck-rock three-part harmonies, they were strained through an old sock, which even took a little edge off the primal screams that customarily greet the finding of the lost chord at the end of those magnificently catharthic choruses.

Confirmation of tonight's shortcomings being sonic rather than the songs arrived with those well-loved oldies (early '85 vintage) - 'I Apologise', 'Girl Who Lives On Heaven Hill', "If I Told You', 'Folk Lore', 'Books About UFOs', 'Celebrated Summer' etc - which ran the gauntlet from beautifully ragged to brutally rogered; well performed, I suspect, but snarled in the machinery. And as for their genuinely psychedelic rather than merely paisleyesque instrumental 'Reoccuring Dreams', could it be a 'Dark Star' for the '80s? If so, are Hüsker Dü hardcore's Grateful Dead, with all the hit and miss waywardness that implies?

And hark! what is this swimming out of the clenched shrillstorm as if to prove my point? Why, 'tis the very lovely and plangent theme tune from The Mary Tyler Moore Show!


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