Friday, 25 January 2013

Top 102 Albums. No 62. New Day Rising

Top 102 Albums. No 62. 
New Day Rising - Hüsker Dü

As I continue to post on my favourite albums I find that I am uncoupling any pretence of objectivity or order. These are 102 of my favourite albums. I could list another 102 easily and then do the same again. And if I spent enough time I'm sure that I could come up with a new great album every day. Music is abundant but time is firmly rationed.

This is one of the albums which I listened to most back in the eighties and one that still gets pulled out now. The thrill of the wash of guitars; the stuttering, piledriving drumming and the pop nous of the melodies on offer is still potent.
Hüsker Dü first came to my attention through the live album Land Speed Record which was pretty uncompromising hardcore and seemed to have something but didn't really make a huge impression on me. Between 1984 and 1987 they were to release five albums that would make an impression on me, and on many others besides. That list includes two double albums.

It was New Day Rising that really blew my mind. These were massive hits in my mind and I find it difficult to comprehend how little impact they had on the charts. Most of the tracks on this sound like they could have been singles and How to Skin a Cat a funny, throwaway b-side. Perhaps Terms of Psychic Warfare and Fifty Nine Times the Pain don't sound like the titles of hit singles but there's a sense of purpose and energy on the tracks which means that this is never a depressing album. And these are classic songs, full of hooks, smart lyrics and clever, unexpected changes of pace. The lyrics of Terms of Psychic Warfare seem one half of a conversation with the audience.   Or is it Grant Hart talking to Bob Mould?

Terms of Psychic Warfare

I see you walking down the road
And the thoughts within my mind explode
But having to hold back taught me a lot about control
And letting it all loose at once when it was time to let you know
You occupied my space and you occupied your mind
By jumping off the roof to the first conclusion you can find

Now all the silver you can steal
Can't buy a piece of what I feel
It's sad but the means they just don't justify the ends
To be forever haunted by the ghosts of all your friends
Painful, yeah that's the way you've chosen it to be
C'mon can't you think of anyone besides me?

Now don't think you're the only one who harbours a self hate
I'm just as guilty of selling what my sweet soul creates
And don't feel bad the next time my memory comes creepin'
You've got your own bed now, I suggest that's the one you sleep in

However there was a lot more than focussed industry going on in the three persons in one band that was Hüsker Dü. Having been signed by Warners and being described somewhere, if my memory serves me right as being ready to became the 'alternative'  Beatles, they managed to implode in a very Beatlesy way, with a double album, arguments over whose songs should be on the record and the tragic death of their manager. There was also drugs, alcohol  and new partners involved in the split - or so it has been reported. The title of their first studio album, Everything Falls Apart, seemed ominous in retrospect.

Post breakup both Bob Mould and Grant Hart have released some excellent solo and group albums but have never quite hit the heights they attained with Hüsker Dü. And this album is the apex of those heights.


  1. Mmm, this makes me feel old and... removed.
    Candy Apple Grey my only real 'connect' with this band.
    Interesting how close we hold these early records if they were part of our youth. I have similar raucous relics (Replacements/Sabbath etc) that others would balk at and dismiss.

    1. I like The Replacements myself but never really listened to Sabbath. Harder to have time and space to listen to loud raucous records at the necessary volume but always intend to do it more. I have a leaning toward the splintered and chaotic.

    2. See, I'm starting to make some sense of things; as a kid I always reached for the soothing tones of the singer songwriters; and although, I pogoed with the punks, never really belonged there. I'm thinking that, maybe because home life was so chaotic I reached out for order, compassion, wisdom in the music I listened to. Anal retentive? I know that a lot of my mates with happy havens felt free and easy to reach for the raucous, splintered and chaotic; maybe compromising for the lack of it...

    3. I don't know Trevor. We're always explaining these things after the fact. I lost my mother very young and always felt that that made me lean towards the margins like a tree on a ridge. Also I was a little to young for punk and aspired desperately to it, listening to Peel under the sheets at night, waiting... Also I'm quite reserved at heart and maybe I needed something cathartic from music.

    4. Here I go again but... I was slap bang in the middle of punk at an impressionable age: 16 - 19. I saw the Pistols live at Bingley on their first tour; although I wanted to believe, they were laughably shite; even to my impressionable ears. So, I was swept along by the enthusiasm and anarchy of it all, yet, secretly, slightly apologetic at liking much of the stuff that punk was aggressively dismissing, from Yes, Genesis, ELP, the prog rock that I didn't understand but was blindsided by. Although I played Clash/Pistols/Sham with my youth club bands I always leant towards the more 'musical' post punk; Stranglers, XTC, Police, Jam, Buzzcocks, although I can't say that I genuinely 'loved' any of them. Turmoil, anxiety, aggression, vulnerability... Those Sheffield college days still make my heart race at the thought of the gigs; haunted with fervour, but, agin your tree on a ridge, I was deep rooted, cripplingly so; I still remember the wearying worry of underachievement that went with the supposed studies, the 'front' that my Oxbridge father were paying for; the fear of disappointing him...
      And, "under the sheets"? I used to listen secretly to Jimmy Clitheroe.

    5. I think the Pistols remain the ones I 'love' most.I think Johnny said things that were new in such a public arena. He also gave a voice to many of the millions of 2nd generation Irish for whom identity was a very fraught issue. "just another country"
      XTC were one of my favourites but I always saw punk as a very broad church that included Wire, Talking Heads, The Buzzcocks, Pere Ubu etc etc. I am probably more aware of the years 1979 on when I hit secondary school, subscribed to Smash Hits and edited the School magazine, often having to do the music pages. So New Wave, I guess, would be the bedrock of my tastes.
      I always thought the Police were slightly sleazy outsiders trying too hard to fit in, like the trendy teacher with his eyes all over the good looking schoolgirls that Mr Sting was. Always regret not recording (or finishing) our opus to the man - "Listen to Sting (He Knows What's Happening)"

  2. One of my all-time favorites. I had to replace a vinyl copy of this since I wore it out. Like you, even though I saw all three members in their solo venture(s) and almost all have been good (a solo Bob Mould tour the sole exception), nothing touches their concerts and recordings from this period. Thanks for that stroll down amnesia lane.

    1. you're welcome Dwight. Wish I'd seen them at the time : (