Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Vinyl Vednesday 7/20/2011

[Vinyl Vednesday is a weekly feature about three favorite vinyl finds. It’s not meant to be a dick-measuring contest, but it usually turns out that way. Since I’m currently reading Bob Mould’s autobiography, See a Little Light: The Trail of Rage and Melody, this week’s installment is all about Hüsker Dü. As always, e-mail with your own big finds!]

Hüsker Dü’s Land Speed Record (1982), Metal Circus (1983), and New Day Rising (1985), all on black.

Place of Purchase: Land Speed Record
and New Day Rising both came from Siren Records in Doylestown. Metal Circus was purchased at Repo Records in Philadelphia.

Thoughts: My love of Hüsker Dü took time to build. I picked up Zen Arcade when I was maybe 19 years old, and while I appreciated the dissonance, it wasn’t until a few years later that I really started to fall in love. But once things clicked, I fell hard, and started snapping up Hüsker Dü releases at a rapid clip. Sometimes it paid off, sometimes it didn’t. To be honest, Land Speed Record is one of the less essential Hüsker Dü records. Consisting of two live sets, the fidelity is debatable. Considering it’s an indie live record from the ’80s, it’s just a notch or two above bootleg status. But it captures the band during their most primal punk phase

If you want to know where to start with Hüsker Dü, though, I’d argue for Metal Circus being a good starting point. That’s when the band started evolving beyond simple hardcore speed. While the group hadn’t quite hit the expansive dissonance of Zen Arcade yet, they were nearly there, as tunes like “Diane” and “Real World” attest. Mould already had his signature guitar sound in place – with just a few tweaks, he was able to create this monolithic, otherworldly noise that just devastates me. He gets one of my all-time favorite guitar tones, alongside My Bloody Valentine’s Kevin Shields and Jawbreaker’s Blake Schwarzenbach, and reading his breakdown of how to get there on See a Little Light is amazing. He makes this incredible, unique music seem like the easiest thing to make.

Once you get on board with Metal Circus, you can either dive headfirst into Zen Arcade, or you could take a detour through New Day Rising. Zen Arcade is both Hüsker Dü’s best and most difficult record, and New Day Rising streamlines all the noise into something ever so slightly more mainstream. While it’s not as pop-oriented as Candy Apple Grey, their major label debut, New Day Rising is the record that got the band a record contract with Warner Bros. As a double album, Zen Arcade has a certain amount of sprawl. Granted, New Day Rising is 16 tracks deep, but it still shows a greater emphasis on melody, something the band would develop even further on Flip Your Wig (which Warner Bros. nearly put, but the band opted to give to SST as a farewell present) and Grey. In that sense, it might be the best gateway, as it represents all of the band’s styles at once. It’s a little hardcore in spots, it shows glimmers of what became alternative rock, and it even gets shoegaze-y on occasion.

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