shattered hardcore's society-sucks chainsaw zoom once and for all with
its panoramic swings through chilly deathbed blues ("Pink Turns to Blue"),
anthemic rage ("Turn On the News"), and Swirling acid rock ("Reoccurring
Dreams"). Set to a surrealistic story line about a young man's nightmarish
rites of passage, Zen Arcade was American punk's London Calling,
fleshed out with the fearless eclecticism of the Beatles' "White Album."
Now, after two more blitzkrieg LPs for the independent SST label, New Day
Rising and Flip Your Wig, Hüsker Dü has taken a giant
step into the majors with its debut Warner Bros. release, Candy Apple
Grey. The Warners deal in which the band members demanded, and
got, the right to produce themselves reflects Hüsker Dü's
rapid ascent from underground stardom to national recognition. It is also
indicative of the group's good business sense and its desire to ure a wider
audience into its outlaw-rock sphere.
"The new record's available all over the country," Mould declares proudly.
"With SST, as good a job as they did, when we started getting press in all the
papers that show up at the 7-Eleven in these small towns, people would go to
the drugstore to find the record. No chance."
"I met a guy last week who said, 'I've been selling loads of copies of
your new album,'" adds Norton, stroking his distinctive Cardinal Richelieu
mustache. "I asked him where he worked and he said 'Sears.'"
Candy Apple Grey has certainly thrown Hüsker Dü devotees
for a loop with its strikig studio clarity and zigzag pacing from sonic
meltdowns like "Crystal" to Hart's sing-along aggro pop ("Sorry Somehow,"Dead
Set on Destruction") and Mould's start acoustic musings ("Too Far Down" and
"Hardly Getting Over It"), which have more in common with John Lennon's
Plastic Ono Band album than anything in the Ramones catalog. But Mould
maintains that even inthe beginning, when the band was recording song-a-minute
wipeouts like the 1981 live album Land Speed Record, Hüsker Dü
had another set's worth of slower, more dramatic material that never made it
"If you listen to the end of Land Speed Record, you hear a voice say,
'We'll be back for another set.' I've still got that set on tape somewhere.
That's the other side of the band nobody ever saw back then." It was, he says,
"some of the best stuff we ever wrote. Really, really heavy. There was a
different kind of interplay between guitar, bass and drums. The vocals were
a lot more sparse.
No matter what the group
played, Hüsker Dü Swedish for "Do
you remember?" and the name of a popular Fifties board game created
quite a negative stir in the Twin Cities after being formed in 1979. At their
first performance together, they did three sets of covers ranging from
Frankie Ford's "Sea Cruise" to Pere Ubu's "Non-Alignment Pact." But they
quickly cooked up a repertoire of twisted originals played at lightning speed.
"Everyone thought we were uncool 'Oh, the Ramones did it all before,'"
recalls the twenty-five-year-old Mould, a native of upstate New York who was
attending college in St. Paul when he met Grant Hart, an employee of a nearby
record shop. "But the way we spit things back out, a lot of them came out
backward, upside down and sideways." Greg Norton, 27, a former avant-garde
jazz and electronic-music freak, notes that "as we were maturing as musicians
and were actually able to hold down a song at a slower tempo, we discovered we
could get into more intricate melody lines and it didn't lose any of the power
of the playing."
The Mohawk Nation that tuned into early blink-and-you-missed-it Hüsker
Dü releases apparently hasn't appreciated the import of Norton's
revelation. Despite its public disavowal of hardcore rituals like slam dancing
and stage diving, Hüsker Dü is still plagued by unfortunate
disruptions at gigs. The night before the group's momentous acoustic-encore
ahow in New York, Mould was assaulted onstage by an overzealous punk.
"These kids think, 'Hey, it's our right, the pit is ours.' Who told them that?"
Mould snaps with open disgust. "Where is it written on the ticket, 'No tape
recorders, no cameras, but the pit belongs to the punkers'?"
Mould admits that punk rock was the sound that changed his life, and the group
continues to support young like-spirited bands, periodically releasing
records by other groups on its own Reflex label. "I believed in the spirit
of being able to do what you wanted to do," Mould says. "When it became
apparent that hardcore was going many steps further in infringing on everyone
and not being productive, we got out. But we tore a lot of people away with
When they hear the lyrics to "Real World" on Metal Circus read back to
them "I don't rape, and I don't pillage/ Other people's lives/ I don't
practice what you preach/ And I won't see through your eyes" Mould
Hart and Norton all nod sagely in agreement. "Sorry, hardcore. Sorry punk
rock," Mould concludes with grave finality. "But it's the fuckin' truth.
I don't believe in that shit."
Hüsker Dü has made
a rapid ascent from the
hardcore underground to
BY DAVID FRICKE
AT FIRST GLANCE IT WAS HARD
to tell if this was heresy or history. For more than an hour during a frenzied
New York club gig last February, Hüsker Dü's Bob Mould abused
his electric guitar with classic punk choler, slashing chord progressions
to ribbons and conjuring waves of screeching, harpy feedback. But when he
returned to the stage for the trio's obligatory encore, Mould had an acoustic
twelve-string guitar strapped across his barrel chest. While Mould led the
way through folked-up readings of usually manic Hüsker Dü originals
like "Makes No Sense at All" and "Celebrated Summer," drummer Grant Hart
calmly rattles a tambourine and Greg Norton picked lightly at hid electric
bass. The slam-dancing punks at the foot of the stage
stopped their animal
ballet and just stared. Had Hüsker Dü, America's Great White
Hardcore Hope, gone hootenanny?
"We had never done that before," Mould cackles triumphantly over a
vegetarian pizza in a New York restaurant several weeks later. "There were
only a hundred people left in the club, and their faces went blank when they
saw that twelve-string. All I could think was, 'You dumb fuckers, I wrote
these songs on this guitar.'"
For the past two years, Hüsker Dü has been confounding warrior
punks and mainstream rockers alike with a rapidly evolving fusion of high-speed
thrash, recombinant pop-song structures and emotionally scarred lyric
confessions. Zen Arcade, the Minneapolis
group's landmark 1984 double album