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Archive for the ‘Grant Hart’ Category

ny7SOUNDTRACK: HÜSKER DÜ-Candy Apple Grey (1986).

candyThis disc seems to be universally panned as the worst Hüsker Dü disc (meaning it only gets 4 stars instead of 5) and yet I disagree.  Perhaps it’s because it was the second disc of theirs that I had heard and so it has always been more familiar, or maybe it’s because I think the sounds is fuller.

“Don’t Want to Know if You Are Lonely” is like the culmination of Grant Hart’s pop songwriting career.  Some say that the song is too stereotypically Hüsker Dü since all the parts fit together so well (as if that’s a bad thing).  “Sorry Somehow” is another shouting Mould gem that retains its pop sheen even with the noise.  And speaking of noise, the buzzsaw guitars that open the disc sound like nothing so much as the Jesus and Mary Chain.  Warner Bros must have been wondering what they got themselves into that their newly signed band opened their disc with that.

What’s most surprising about this disc though are the two acoustic numbers.  Hüsker Dü had obviously experimented before (see Zen Arcade) but these are the most delicate pieces they had written.  I mean, Bob’s voice is so delicate, it cracks in “Too Far Down” for goodness sake.  And “Hardly Getting Over It” would certainly be musically  familiar to anyone who knows Mould’s solo album Workbook.

It may not be a masterpiece, and I know that most Hüsker Dü fans don’t think that much of it, but it totally rocks my world.

[READ: July 6, 2009] “Childcare”

I had heard great things about Lorrie Moore. I bought her Birds of America and then just never read it. Then one day I was in my car waiting for some interminable thing or another and really wished I had a book with me. I decided to put Birds of America in my car. It’s a collection of short stories, so it seemed perfect. And then I never got in another situation where I was at an interminable wait and didn’t have some other book, too. So basically her book is still unread although now it is nicely beaten up. Sigh.

So this is my first Lorrie Moore story. She reminds me, at first thought, of Alice Munro (although she is not Canadian, nor quite so dark), because they both tend to focus on little events in people’s lives and how they can become defining.  Their stories are also small in scope, (in that not a lot “happens”), but are powerfully written and show a lot more going on underneath the surface.

In this story, Tassie Keltjin, a young woman who is just out of college goes in search of a job. She is looking specifically in the “childcare” area because she doesn’t really know what she wants to do for a real career. (more…)

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ny622SOUNDTRACK: HÜSKER DÜ-Flip Your Wig (1985).

flipHere’s where Hüsker Dü dropped most of the pretense that they didn’t write the catchiest songs ever.  And, if this had been released in the mid 90s it would have been an enormous hit.  Or for that matter, if this had been released on Warner Brothers as it was meant to be instead of SST, Hüsker Dü would probably be a more familiar name (and of course no one would love them as much).

Bob Mould wrote his first real shoulda-been breakthrough hit with “Makes No Sense at All,” simply the catchiest song they’ve released to this point (Grant Hart’s pop masterpieces notwithstanding).  And even though previous songs had been catchy, the recording of this track, and the disc as a whole, is less noisy/chaotic/wall of fuzz and is more subtle.  Not that anyone would mistake it for a Top 40 song or anything like that, because the noise is still there, it just feels like they are controlling it rather than the other way around.  The next song, “Hate Paper Doll” is probably even more poppy, although with a title and lyrics like that it’s not going anywhere near the radio.

“Green Eyes” is a sweet, yes, sweet, song from Grant Hart (showing that he hasn’t lost any songwriting chops).  “Divide and Conquer” is another poppy ditty, with a series of la-la-las in the post-chorus.  The rest of the disc couldn’t possibly continue this streak of amazingness, and yet it doesn’t drop very far.  There’s the by now obligatory silly song (“The Baby Song” with slide whistle as the main instrument), and then two instrumentals that close the disc.

Even though it’s still a punk record (mostly in the lyrics), the band’s love of psychedelic sounds is definitively shining through,  (which explains, no doubt why the Dead Milkmen sing in “The Thing That Only Eats Hippies,” “so Bob and Greg and Grant you best beware.”

You can’t go wrong with Flip Your Wig.

[READ: July 7, 2009] “Idols”

This story almost seemed to be a fable it was so patently moralistic.  And although the details were unexpected, the conclusion seemed rather inevitable.

In this story Julian fixes typewriters in Memphis.  He receives a letter that his family’s estate in rural Tennessee has finally cleared up and he has inherited the old family house (which he has only seen once when driving past it with his mother).  The house is run down and very very old and Julian decides that it is his destiny to renovate this house and return to his roots.  His inheritance! (more…)

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changeSOUNDTRACK: HÜSKER DÜ-New Day Rising (1985).

new dayAfter Zen Arcade, who would have guessed that Hüsker Dü would finally release a regular album…not live, not an EP, not a double record, just a standard platter of 40 minutes of music.

For the longest time, “New Day Rising” was one of my favorite songs.  I think its simplicity combined with its basic absurdity really struck a chord with me.  It starts with a  pummeling drum and then is all distorted guitars chugging away at a single chord while Bob Mould screams, really screams “new day RI-sing” over and over again.  The chord changes from time to time and eventually Grant Hart busts in with backing chanting and hollering while Mould gets even more berserk with his screams.  And then it ends.  Just like that.  Two and a half minutes of noisy bliss.

That fuzzy guitar is a really a trademark of Hüsker Dü, something I tend to forget when I think about the songs themselves.  I’m not sure what Mould did with his settings, but his guitar is always loud, kind of tinny and heavy on the distortion.  It’s a good way to mask some simple pop songs as raging punk.

And the songs on New Day Rising are quite poppy. Grant Hart continues his great songwriter streak with “The Girl Who Lives on Heaven Hill” and the ridiculously poppy “Books About UFOs,” while Mould’s pop side is really starting to peek through: “I Apologize” and “Celebrated Summer” hit some great poppy strides (and the distorted guitar is toned down a little bit too).

There’s also another favorite: the weird and creepy “How to Skin a Cat.”  It’s something of a nonsense/throwaway song and yet the music is so weird that they must have had a lot of fun playing it.  “Feed the cats to the rats and the rats to the cats and get the cat skins for nothing.”  The song also makes me think of SST records in general.  If you follow music labels, SST was the home to some seminal punk bands like Black Flag and Hüsker Dü, but they also had a lot of weird punky-California bands.  And all the records have a similar soud quality.  “How to Skin a Cat” to me is the encapsulation of the SST sound.

SST is also a thorn in everyone’s side because they won’t release any of the Hüsker’s disc for remastering. I wonder what a remastered Hüsker disc would sound like? Would it still be as noisy and tinny?

[READ: July 3, 2009] Change Your Underwear Twice a Week

When we went visiting my brother-in-law in Vermont, he took us to an awesome local bookstore called Brown Dog Books.  Sarah and I made sure to do our part for the local economy.  One of the books that I bought was this one.  Tim was also very interested in reading it, as would anybody else who grew up in the 60s and 70s.

As the subtitle suggests, this is a book that looks at a number of the filmstrips shown in grade school. (more…)

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back coverSOUNDTRACK: HÜSKER DÜ-Metal Circus EP (1983).

HuskerDuMetalCircusAfter the insane hardcore mess of Land Speed Record, this EP is a bit of a change.  It’s still pretty hardcore, but now you can tell that the noisiness of the guitar is deliberate.  Bob Mould is playing around with multiple layers of feedback and distortion to create a wall of noise that sometimes hides, sometime accentuates the overall sound.

What strikes me as odd in retrospect is that I think of Bob Mould as one of alternative rock’s poppier songwriters.  And yet when you listen to this disc the two poppiest (which is a relative term to be sure) tracks are by Grant Hart.

The first two tracks are fast and furious.  But what separates them from 4 x 4 hardcore is, mostly Greg Norton’s bass.  He’s all over the place.  There’s also some diversity within the songs themselves (a little guitar squeal in “Deadly Skies”).

“It’s Not Funny Anymore” (Hart’s song) is surprisingly upbeat (with guitar harmonics) and is not quite as noisy (although it’s still pretty noisy, and is not going on the radio anytime soon).

The next two track are more of Mould’s screamy hardcore.

The longest song (4 and a half minutes) is also by Hart. “Diane” is a creepy song about abduction and murder (yet with something of a  singalong chorus).  I actually know the Therapy? version better because I had listened to that disc a lot when it came out.  But the Hüsker’s version is even creepier.  Wikipedia says it is about a real incident (which makes it less creepy than if Hart has made it up, I suppose).

It ends with Mould’s least hardcore song, although the guitar solo is pretty insane.

And then it’s over.  7 songs in twenty minutes.  That’s nearly half as many as on Land Speed Record.  You can see the songs changing already.  Just wait till the next disc!

[READ: June 29, 2009] McSweeney’s #5

McSweeney’s #5 plays with cover ideas again.  On this one, frontthe cover idea is actual different covers and slipcovers.  The book is hardcover, with three different cover designs.  It also has 4 different slipcover designs. The colophon explains that if one wanted one could have requested for free) each of the cover designs because they did not intend to make people buy multiple issues.  Click on the covers to see them enlarged on flickr (all images are copyright McSweeney’s).

This is the Koppel front cover.

I will quote from the McSweeney’s site their description of the covers:

As many of you know, the new issue of our print version is out, and by now is in most stores. This issue is a hardcover book, and features four different dust jackets. One dust jacket has on it a man who seems to be suffering from terrible skin lesions. The second cover looks very much like the cover of Issue No. 1, with the addition of a medical drawing of a severed arm. The third cover is blank, with all of its images hiding on the back. Hiding from the bad people. The last cover is just red. Or, if you will, simply red.

In addition, under each dust jacket is a different cover. One features pictures of Ted Koppel. One features new work by Susan Minot. And a third features a variation on the second cover, described above, though this version is legible only with aid of mirror. This inner cover also is featured under the red dust jacket.

I was quite surprised when I took the slipcover off mine, (more…)

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