Saturday, September 12, 2009

September 12: Hüsker Dü, "New Day Rising"

Artist: Hüsker Dü
Album: New Day Rising
Year: 1985
Label: SST

During the early to mid-1980's, there were two bands who made it their mission to push the boundaries of rock music to prove that the traditional notions of the sound where wrong. While R.E.M. achieved long lasting, worldwide success, the other band in this pursuit remains, at best, a cult band. However, even though they did not rise to such notoriety, the fact of the matter is, the music of Hüsker Dü was just as important and influential. The band took the edge and energy of punk and hardcore, and masterfully blended it together with amazing pop sensibility, and the resulting sound is truly like no other music ever recorded. Though they are not immediately as clear as in most pop songs, Hüsker Dü crafts brilliant hooks on every song, and it is the key aspect that makes their music so extraordinary. With the unrivaled writing of Bob Mould and Grant Hart, Hüsker Dü are equally as impressive in their music writing as they are in the execution of each song on their various instruments. Together for only eight years, the music the band created in that time stands as some of the most important and pioneering music ever created. When one examines the overall history of music, it becomes immediately clear that it is Hüsker Dü that were the key band in the transition from the more aggressive sounds of punk and hardcore to the more melodic approach that is found in later bands of the genres. Though their 1984 release, Zen Arcade, completely rewrote the books on rock music, the sound is perfected on Hüsker Dü's phenomenal 1985 album, New Day Rising.

Hüsker Dü, which is Danish for "Do you remember?" influenced countless bands that followed them, with their high energy, high volume brand of non-traditional pop music. Within the music of Hüsker Dü, one can easily hear sounds that would be taken by bands like Sonic Youth, The Pixies, and Babes In Toyland among many others. New Day Rising itself sounds like many SST records of the time, and this is almost surely due to the fact that, like nearly every other SST record of the time, it was produced by Glen Lockett, better known as "Spot." In fact, the band left a brief conversation that occurred with Spot that ends the albums' final song, "Plans I Make." The thin sound that is present throughout a majority of the early SST catalog is present on New Day Rising, yet it does not detract from the bands' sound, it actually makes it better. The true genius of Hüsker Dü lies in the bands' ability to blend some of the most amazingly catchy hooks into their loud, heavy musical assault. Everything about the band, from the vocals to the guitars is turned up as high as possible, yet the musicality is never lost, which is the major aspect that sets them apart from most other bands. Many of the songs swing and bounce like the finest pop songs, and the fact that Bob Mould and Grant Hart are clearly no longer attempting to hide their love for writing these types of songs is the key aspect that sets New Day Rising aside from their previous albums.

After experiencing just a few moments of the sound of Hüsker Dü,, it is clear that the band has a sound and style like no other anywhere in the history of recorded music. Perfectly walking the line between hardcore and pop music, the band remains one of the most uniquely amazing musical sounds. Led by the stunning guitar work of Bob Mould, the bands' music has an attack similar to that of bands like Black Flag and The Ramones. Lightning fast, devoid of filler, and a crunching tone that is absolutely fantastic makes Mould's style and sound one that has been copied countless times since. Equally as forceful and brilliant is the drumming of Grant Hart. At times, Hart sounds to be playing so many different places, that one wonders how it is physically possible. Similarly able to balance his sound between overly aggressive whilst not compromising the songs' integrity, there have been few drummers as innovative and talented as Hart. Filling the final spot in the unmatched power trio that is Hüsker Dü is bassist Greg Norton. Norton flies through each song, keeping pace with Mould and Hart, whilst giving the songs their amazing pop groove and swing. Norton's style and sound are most clearly highlighted with his fantastic bassline on "Terms Of Psychic Warfare." Even when the band slows things down slightly, as on the song, "Perfect Example," their signature sound and edginess is never lost.

It goes without saying that Bob Mould possesses one of the most wonderfully unique singing styles ever recorded. Much like his guitar playing, Mould finds the ideal balance between aggression and melody, and this results in vocal performances that are absolutely perfect for the music underneath. Mould is equally as brilliant whether he is yelling, singing, or in the case of songs like "How To Skin A Cat," delivering the vocals in a fantastic, spoken rhythm. The combination of Mould's vocals and music can be clearly heard on New Day Rising's most notable songs, "Celebrated Summer " as well as the title track. Hart's writing abilities are similar, as it is he who is responsible for the equally superb song, "The Girl Who Lives On Heaven Hill." Both writers display an amazing ability to write heartfelt lyrics as well as words laced with humor, and this is yet another aspect that makes the songs of Hüsker Dü so wonderful. Easily one of the bands' most profound lyrics is found on New Day Rising, when on the song "Folk Lore," Mould sings, "...some things never change, some things stay the same...some things thing I know for sure, your heroes always die..." Mould's voice is truly perfect on every song, and though they may not be as clearly pop as most other bands, the lyrics are just as catchy, and often times, far more meaningful.

With an approach and sound that undeniably marks the bridge between the early hardcore and punk styles and the more modern sound found within the respective genres, few bands can claim as integral a spot in the evolution of music as Hüsker Dü. Taking unquestionably pop-based music and fusing it into a more fast paced, heavier, aggressive style, one can argue that the SKA and punk resurgences of the late 1980's would have never happened without the presence of Hüsker Dü. By far one of the most powerful trios in music history, Bob Mould, Grant Hart, and Greg Norton balance musical aggression and beauty like no other band anywhere in the history of music. They shattered the mold of the tradtional assumptions of rock music with their breakthrough 1984 album, Zen Arcade, yet there were moments on that album where Mould and Hart were clearly holding back, and were not completely comortable with their sound. The album that followed a year later, New Day Rising, is devoid of filler, and is one of the most stunning musical documents anywhere in music history. Each member of the band is in top form and execute each song with flawless precision. Bob Mould's vocals are simply stunning, and every song is as phenomenal as the next, making the album remain largely unmatched to this day. By far one of the most important, yet relatively unknown bands in history, Hüsker Dü drastically changed the musical landscape with their fantastic, original musical approach, and their 1985 release, New Day Rising, perfectly fits its name, as it still stands as one of the pivotal, and most incrediable albums ever recorded.

Standout tracks: "New Day Rising, " "The Girl Who Lives On Heaven Hill," and "Celebrated Summer."

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