Come Around

I wrote a piece for The Vinyl Villain’s Imaginary Compilation album series, ten Husker Du songs to brighten up your life. It’s here. I also found this, a remastered version of Zen Arcade’s opening song. The Youtube poster who put it up had done the new version himself, brought the bass up and balanced out Spot’s trebly mix. A very good job done.

Something I Learned Today

At around the same time a friend reminded me of Bob’s 90s band Sugar and their 1993 ep Beaster. Having signed to Creation and got some genuine success with Copper Blue they put out Beaster as a follow up The six songs on Beaster were recorded at the same time as Copper Blue but stand out as distinctively different- the guitars are heavier and denser. Very dense. Like other Bob Mould records (like Zen Arcade) Beaster was a kind of concept record and had a lot of religious imagery. Opener Come Around comes around slowly with bright acoustic guitar but then the Les Paul and Marshall stack kicks in, along with Bob’s deliberately difficult to make out vocals.

Come Around

Celebrated Summer

The action and success at the velodrome in Rio over the last few days has been unmissable, edge of the seat stuff. Laura Trott, Becky James, Katy Marchant, Jason Kenny, Bradley Wiggins, Owain Doull, Ed Clancy, Steven Burke, Katie Archibald, Joanna Rowsell Shand, Elinor Barker, Callum Skinner, Mark Cavendish- all truly something else.

Husker Du’s Celebrated Summer, fifth track on 1985’s New Day Rising, is a peak by a band with many, many peaks. The opening burst of guitar followed by thumping drums and bass raise the hairs on the back of the neck and the 12 string acoustic guitar breakdown in the middle and at the end show Bob Mould wasn’t going to be hemmed in by hardcore’s rules. Breaking out and breaking through. Melody combined with their ferocious energy. The lyrics, as so often with the Huskers, suggest something gone, something lost, the summers of youth- was that your celebrated summer?

A Level results today for my students. More tension and hopefully more celebrations.

Celebrated Summer

It’s Not Peculiar

I was involved in an online discussion a few days back about Husker Du- a friend put forward the suggestion that their cover of The Byrds’ Eight Miles High was their best song. Debate ensued with some agreement but also a reluctance to say that their best song as a cover, especially with a pair of songwriters as gifted as Bob Mould and Grant Hart.

Their last album, Warehouse: Songs And Stories (from 1987), also caused some discussion. Made as the band were getting fully on each other’s nerves (they split shortly after), Grant and Bob’s songs alternate across the four sides of vinyl, with Bob getting the upper hand numerically (deliberately according to both Bob and Grant). Grant was in the grips of heroin and his drumming is a little untogether on the record while at the same time Bob has audibly stepped up his song writing. The guitar playing is a blitz throughout, jagged shards and buzzes of feedback, the melodies chiming through. The dynamics of the songs are intense too- slow build ups, faster tempo choruses, fade ins and outs, clanging chords after the song has finished. I could pick any of Bob’s songs off Warehouse to illustrate the strength and depth of his talents. This one will do nicely.

It’s Not Peculiar

And just in case you were wondering whether he still has it, he does. This is from his newest solo album Patch The Sky- less angry maybe, more at peace with himself, but no less contrary.

Sugar And Mould

Brian at Linear Tracking Lives is counting down his top hundred songs of the 1990s and included a song by Bob Mould’s post-Husker Du power trio Sugar, off their final lp FUEL (File Under Easy Listening). Round these parts Copper Blue is the Sugar album to go to, brilliant from start to finish, but Brian did send me back to FUEL and this song which I always loved. Your Favourite Thing has one of those masterly, fluid Bob Mould guitar riffs that he can knock out in his sleep but other guitarists can only dream of.

Your Favourite Thing

You Can Live At Home

We’ve had precious few guitars here recently so here’s a blast of Husker Du’s indie-punk perfection, what turned out to be their last recorded notes. By 1987 the Huskers were thoroughly fed up with each other and the band. During the making of Warehouse: Songs and Stories Bob Mould told Grant Hart he would never have more than half the songs on any Husker Du album and true to his word Bob’s tunes outnumber Grant’s again. They sequenced the twenty songs alternately by writer but the last song is Grant’s. You Can Live At Home is mini-punk epic, with shards of guitar and echo laden vox. Mould hits a chord around the two minute mark that sends shivers up and the spine and the long coda fade out sees the two men vie for the final word on Husker Du, Bob soloing away and feeding back while Grant repeats the song title over and over. It is as good as they ever were (the Husker Du purists would disagree with me on this one. Warehouse came out on Warners. Sell outs and punk traitors y’see).

If it sounds a little tinny and small, this is what small bands with small budgets sounded like in 87- the radio loudness wars and punchy digital sound were years off. It’ll shrink sonically in comparison to other stuff if you play it on shuffle. But it’ll sound better. Husker Du were real one offs. Truly, there is no other band who could combine 60s idealism and writing, 80s punk, and melodies like this one could.

You Can Live At Home

>I’m On The Centreline, Right Between Two States Of Mind

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The other half of Husker Du’s songwriters was Bob Mould, who had the more successful solo career. Sugar hit the big time with Copper Blue (on Creation in the early 90s), Workbook and a string of solo abums sold well and were highly rated, he took time out to write WWF scripts for TV (wrestling not wildife), and he did some housey electronic stuff (which bamboozled some of his fans). Recent interviews suggest he’s mellowed a bit from the slightly dour figure he was. I like Bob Mould even if some of his solo albums can be hard work.

This is Hoover Dam, from Copper Blue- full of crunching guitar, melodrama and some strangely cheesy 80s keyboards. Turn it up.