Thursday, July 29, 2010

July 29: Hüsker Dü, "Makes No Sense At All"

Artist: Hüsker Dü
Song: "Makes No Sense At All"
Album: 7 Inch Wonders Of The World
Year: 1985

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Within a modern context, if one were to try and come up with an "opposite" for punk rock, it would be easy to make the case that it is the sound and style of pop music.  While a punk song certainly can (and often has) become popular, it is within the sonic approach and presentation that these two styles fall on completely polar ends of the spectrum.  Furthermore, one can make quite the same argument for the contrasting styles of heavy metal and pop music, and it is much the reason that often the biggest bands of these styles (punk and metal) are only seen as "cult heroes" on the larger level.  From this reasoning, one can understand that a band that plays a punk-metal hybrid sound is going to be about as far from a pop sound as possible; unless of course that band happens to be Hüsker Dü.  Though they rarely get the credit they so clearly deserve, it was the efforts of Hüsker Dü throughout the 1980's that remains one of the most important factors in the development of music as a whole.  In short, the rock-based sound simply does not progress "properly" or fully without the contributions of this amazing band.  Furthermore, it was also Hüsker Dü that proved that it was possible to make the jump to a "major" label and not have to compromise your musical approach.  While the list of fantastic songs is quite lengthy within the Hüsker Dü catalog, there are few that can match the power and presence of their 1985 single, "Makes No Sense At All."

Truth be told, Hüsker Dü had nearly every card stacked against them, as along with their "strange" sound, they were recording on one of the most notoriously anti-everything and confrontational labels in history, SST.  With label-mates like The Minutemen, The Meat Puppets, and of course the mighty Black Flag, it is almost unthinkable that there was even the smallest smattering of a "pop" sound.  Yet "Makes No Sense At All" first appeared as a single, and was given a larger release as part of the absolutely essential 1985 SST compilation, 7 Inch Wonders Of The World (it would eventually be released on Hüsker Dü's album, Flip Your Wig, later that same year).  It is in many ways due to being on this compilation that the difference between Hüsker Dü and their label-mates becomes the most clear, as while the minimalist approach and attitude are similar, they are light-years apart from their peers when it comes to the final sonic product.  From beginning to end, "Makes No Sense At All" is filled with a fuzzy, yet in-your-face sound that has a catch and appeal that is unlike anything else ever recorded.  Drummer Grant Hart is, as they say, on fire throughout the track, and his lightning-fast fills stand as one of the songs' most distinctive aspects.  The bass from Greg Norton is equally as impressive, as he winds around the track, working his sound between Hart and the stunning guitar work from Bob Mould.  It is the tone of Mould's guitar and the fact that the trio are playing such an aggressive arrangement that is somehow equally appealing to fans of any genre that makes "Makes No Sense At All" nothing short of a musical anomaly.

Along with the musical approach, the vocals from Bob Mould are also far more catchy and accessible than those of a majority of his peers, yet there is never any question that he is just as fierce and confrontational as the finest of all the punk and metal frontmen.  Much like a majority of his peers, Mould uses no vocal modifications on "Makes No Sense At All," and yet the "fuzz" that permeates the rest of the song seems to make his voice sound slightly different.  Regardless, Bob Mould has without question one of the strongest and most diverse voices of the entire post-punk movement, and to this day, his vocal approach remains one of the high-water marks for the genre.  While the music seems to somehow separate Hüsker Dü from their peers, it is within the words of "Makes No Sense At All" that the band makes it quite clear that they are just as punk as any other band in the world.  Taking an unrelenting, in-your-face lyrical approach, Bob Mould delivers what can almost be seen as a tirade against some unknown partner who clearly had control issues.  The songs' bridge is one of the most brutal stanzas ever penned as Mould unleashes on this unknown party with the phrase, "...I don't know why you want to tell me when I'm right or when you're's the same thing, in your mind, the only time I'm right is when I play along..."  It is sentiments such as this that fall in like perfectly with the other bands on SST, and yet it is the fact that Hüsker Dü is able to make their brand of musical chaos so much more melodic that makes them an indispensable part of music history.

Taking the uncompromising, bruising attack of the punk and heavy metal styles and somehow molding them into tunes that were as accessible as any pop song, few bands pushed music as a whole forward more than Hüsker Dü.  Making a point to keep one foot rooted firmly in their more aggressive musical upbringing, but finding a way to incorporate melody and harmony into this chaos, there has simply never been another band quite like Hüsker Dü.  It is largely due to the melody that takes "Makes No Sense At All" to another musical level, as Bob Mould penned one of his finest musical arrangements here, and it was (and is) able to transcend musical boundaries even more than twenty-five years after it was first released.  Though their first few records on SST are nothing short of classics, it is their single, "Makes No Sense At All" that shows the first signs of the bands' "perfected" musical approach.  Combining large doses of heavy metal and punk, the group brings a distinctive "fuzz" to the song, and the wall of guitar noise evokes the spirit of psychedelia that appears throughout much of the rest of the bands' catalog.  In many ways taking a small piece from every band that was on SST, Hüsker Dü fused together a number of musical approaches and somehow managed to form a new sound that was both faithful to their hardcore roots, but also had an appeal that brought countless new fans to the genre.  Truth be told, there is not a "bad" song anywhere in Hüsker Dü's stunning and innovative catalog, yet few of their songs can compare to the combination of raw energy, musical aggression, and unique pop-sensibility that have led to the lasting impact of their 1985 single, "Makes No Sense At All."

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