Friday, November 21, 2008

Hüsker Dü: Hardcore '81

Or Hüsker Dü, headband-era, if you prefer.

About a year ago I wondered aloud if I needed a good reason to post a live clip of Hüsker Dü. (Answer: no.) Now, I actually have a reason. Some enterprising chap who goes by the handle of HUSKERchout has a ton of rare Dü footage on his YouTube channel, including an entire show from September of 1981.

The common story with Hüsker Dü is that they were a hardcore band who later transcended the limits of the genre via experimentation and increased songwriting prowess. That's about half true. Two points that poke some holes in that theory:

1. Hüsker Dü was an awesome hardcore band. They were not some generic, barely competent learn-two-chords-and-bash-away outfit ala SOA or DYS or whatever three letter acronym you can think of. Hüsker's hardcore was taut and powerful, holding it's own against Minor Threat, Bad Brains, Negative Approach and any other titans of the genre. Bob Mould's signature dexterous guitar sound was in place very early though between the blinding velocity and the fact that the band's debut LP, Land Speed Record, was recorded live and lo-fi it was sometimes hard to tell. Just check the evidence below:

Had Land Speed Record been recorded in a studio with any degree of fidelity, there's little doubt in my mind it would be as highly regarded as, say, SSD's Get It Away, whatever that's worth.

2. Hüsker Dü played more than hardcore from the beginning. This shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone who's heard their debut 7", "Statues/Amusement." After feeling they may have went too far in the direction of college radio accessibility for their first single, the band overcompensated by going too far in the other direction for their first album. Subsequent releases like the In a Free Land EP and the Everything Falls Apart album got the balance just about right but early non-hardcore Dü songs like those below were never officially released or even recorded in the studio. Tis a pity:

I'm hoping somebody someday will assemble a definitive set of early Hüsker Dü material for official release. (The Everything Falls Apart and More CD was very good but there's more work to be done.) Come to think of it, the entirety of Hüsker Dü's SST back catalog could use the deluxe treatment. The 25th anniversary of Zen Arcade is next year. Some one get on that, please.

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