Warehouse review appeared in the March 1987 issue of Seattle
arts paper, The Rocket. Quiz: Does author Robert Allen like
Hüsker Dü? Did he like the album?
Nobody does it better than Hüsker Dü
THE MODERN BEATLES
By Robert Allen
Warehouse: Songs and Stories
Warner Brothers (LP)
almost down the middle, once again leaving bassist Greg Norton as
rock's ultimate silent partner. Most of Hüsker Dü's amazing power
comes from Mould; to call the band guitar-based seems redundant, given that
guitar, bass and drums are the only instruments credited. But if the
production is simple, Mould's playing is not. There has never been a
better exponent of making a guitar sound like a chainsaw, and his range is
unlimited, from the cathedral-like metal riff of "Ice Cold Ice" to the
rockabilly-on-speed fills in "Actual Condition."
Mould's songs tend toward the reflective, though the stark Plastic Ono Band-style self-dissection of Candy Apple Grey (Hüsker Dü's previous LP) is somewhat tempered. Mould is sensitive without an ounce of sentimentality. Songs such as "Bed Of Nails" and "Turn It Around" almost make you give the guy a mental hug just to tell him it's OK to be depressed. Mould's self-questioning is practically unique, in that his ideas make sense, and any trace of self-pity is usually washed away in a surge of power chords.
Hart also has that aspect to his writing, but he's often a lot more fun. The sixties references that crop up in Hüsker Dü's music do so usually in Hart' songs. "She Floated Away" captures more of the Byrds' spirit than
THERE IS AN HONESTY crisis in American rock. Considering that American
music seems entranced by the inane bragging of most rap music (and the
equally hollow bombast of heavy metal), finding a major young band that
speaks from the heart seems unlikely. Even sincere, well-intentioned
"roots" bands such as the BoDeans fall short, wrapping themselves in a sheen
of authenticity that acts like the plastic covers on Grandma's couch,
preventing any semblance of real closeness.
The potential heirs to Holly, Fogerty, and Springsteen (he is 37, folks) are out there, if you look hard enough. And almost every worthwhile American band of this decade from X to the Replacements to Romeo Void has had one thing in common. And that is that all have built a following on independent labels and switched to the majors making a lot of wonderful music, but not setting the cash registers on fire. Hüsker Dü is following in those footsteps, but the best band in America may finally break the mould. Despite the lack of an obvious single, Warehouse: Songs And Stories may actually sell some copies.
Hüsker Dü's last five albums represent one of the most brilliant hitting streaks in rock. Starting with Zen Arcade, an all-over- the-place smorgasbord that lifted them above being merely a
"Hüsker Dü's last five albums represent one of the most brilliant hitting streaks in rock 'n' roll."
each succeeding album has expanded and re-invented the group, creating a
snowball effect not unlike the Beatles' journey after Rubber Soul.
Warehouse stands as a culmination of the sequence, and with its
sister double-album Zen Arcade, seems to act as a pair of bookends.
Warehouse is the most conventional album Hüsker Dü has made. This has nothing to do with the idiotic concept of "selling out." It merely means that it's a cohesive collection of medium-length songs veering neither to thrash nor dirges. It helps to look at Zen Arcade to see what Warehouse is missing. It lacks thirteen-minute-long instrumentals, backward mixing, pint-sized hardcore blasts or acoustic folk songs. What remains is some marvelously inventive music, delivered with a combination of power and grace unmatched by any active American band.
Guitarist Bob Mould and drummer Grant Hart split the writing and singing chores
any of the twelve-string
tributes that try to ape their sound. Hart's major triumph, though, is "Tell
You Why Tomorrow," which Jimi Hendrix somehow left off Axis: Bold As
Love. This period Hendrix pastiche could only have been written by a
drummer the tip-off is Hart's re-creation of Mitch Mitchell's
drum parts. These songs transcend mere imitation because Hüsker Dü
has such a strong sense of identity that such fooling around seems unforced.
Warehouse has lyrics of such insight and intimacy that it becomes the first Hüsker Dü album where the words take center-stage from the music. But that music contains so many magical moments of aggression and tenderness that I can recommend it as easily as drifting away on the lazy chords of Warehouse's best, most sublime song with "No Reservations."
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