now get this and get this good: You all owe Husker Du. If Husker
Du had never existed, most of the bands we listen to today would not
sound the same and many of them might not even exist. No Pixies, no Replacements,
no Nirvana, no Pearl Jam, no Superchunk, no emo at allhell, I probably
wouldn't even be here if it weren't for Husker Du. So, let's just cut
to the chase. Husker Du was formed in Minneapolis
in 1979 when Bob Mould (guitar/vocals) and Grant Hart (drums/vocals) hung
out at the same record
store and therein lies both the band's greatness and its eventual
demise: two gifted, conflicted songwriters who didn't always, ahem, see
The duo hooked up with bassist Greg Norton and hit the national punk club circuit, where they earned a reputation as one of the finest live bands around, tearing through entire sets non-stop, usually without saying a word to the audience. Husker Du's first few EP releases were primarily hardcore, sparked by Mould's searing guitar and Hart's machine-gun drums, but 1983's "Metal Circus" showed signs of a different sensibility blossoming in the catchy yet hateful "It's Not Funny Anymore" and the creepy ballad "Diane."
True genius reared its head the following year with the double-album "Zen Arcade." The very idea of a double-album was anathema to the underground that spawned Husker Du, and the panoply of new styles and influences on "Zen Arcade" weren't exactly what the punk audience was expecting. Indian ragas, acoustic folk contempt and buzzing pop-hooked laments sat comfortably beside screeching guitars, throat-bleeding screams and the emotional overkill of "Whatever," one of the greatest teen alienation anthems ever recorded. Critics raved, old fans loved it, new converts were made and Husker Du was firmly established as one of the most important bands of its time.
1985's "New Day Rising," made the schism between the two leaders' songwriting styles more apparent. Mould wallowed in agony with the primal, hysterical "59 Times the Pain" and the subdued, mournful "Celebrated Summer"; Hart preferred catchier numbers like the head-bobbing "Terms of Psychic Warfare" and the old-style, song-about-a-girl "Books About UFOs." Later that year, the band released "Flip Your Wig," which featured a brighter, cleaner production sound and their first "hit single," the upbeat "Makes No Sense At All."
In 1986, Husker Du became one of the first indie groups to be signed by a major label, moving from SST to Warner Bros. to make "Candy Apple Grey," one of the most depressing albums in history, perhaps because of the increasing tension within the band. Mould and Hart's unspoken artistic rivalries became more difficult to transcend and Hart's drug and alcohol intake was increasing. Mould's "Sorry Somehow" is a stripped-down, animal howl of pain and his "Hardly Getting Over It" shimmers acoustic guitar over an account of the people and things that pass us by. Hart offered up the piano-backed, cymbal-brushed "No Promise Have I Made." Even the fast songs betrayed a problem, with titles like "Dead Set On Deastruction" and "All This I've Done for You."
The next year saw another double-album, "Warehouse: Songs and Stories." While some longtime fans thought its slicked-up production and platoon of hooks screamed "sellout," others sensed a swan song. The disc was highlighted by one of the decade's great singles, the breathless but gritty "Could You Be the One"but there were also fuzzed-out sea shanties ("She Floated Away"), rockabilly workouts ("Actual Condition"), political rat-a-tat ("You're a Soldier") and funk-powered jams ("You Can Live at Home").
Tthe "Warehouse" tour was aborted when Husker Du's manager committed suicide on the eve of its commencement. Shortly thereafter, Mould announced that Hart was fired and Husker Du was no more, save for a live disc, "Everything Falls Apart." Grant Hart made a few solo discs, cleaned up, started a new band called Nova Mob, went solo again and has hovered on the edge of obscurity ever since. Bob Mould made his solo albums, founded the trio Sugar, disbanded them, made a few more solo records and is considering retirement in light of his increasing hearing loss. And Greg, well, Greg is a chef back in Minneapolis.