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Members include Grant Hart, drums, vocals; Bob Mould (born on October 16, 1960, in Malone, NY), vocals, guitar; Greg Norton, bass.
Pioneering 1980s pop-punk trio Hüsker Dü arguably opened the door for the wave of modern alternative rock that changed the music industry in the 1990s. The songwriting partnership of drummer Grant Hart and frontman Bob Mould gave Hüsker Dü it's singular sound, but was also the source of bitter resentments that ultimately ruined the group.
Hüsker Dü was formed in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1979. The trio's name, which means "do you remember," came from a 1950's Scandinavian board game. Bob Mould was a student at Minneapolis' Malacaster College, and worked at a local record store at the time. It was there store that he met drummer, songwriter, and vocalist Grant Hart and bassist Greg Norton. The three had many conflicting opinions about music, but were united in their love of punk rock. They began playing aggressive hard-core thrash punk, but the group's sound soon became a showcase for a variety of diverse influences. Hart and Mould complemented each other perfectly in their songwriting partnership.
By 1980 Hüsker Dü had developed a strong local following, playing in Minneapolis clubs. They became so popular in their hometown, in fact, that Rolling Stone credits the group with influencing several other Minneapolis bands, including the Replacements and Soul Asylum. The group released their first single, "Statues," on the independent Minneapolis Reflex record label in January of 1981. Their debut album, Land Speed Record, a live recording that boasted 17 songs (but clocked in at just 26 minutes) followed that summer on the New Alliance label. In 1982 they released an EP called In a Free Land.
The group embarked on a relentless touring and recording schedule that would characterize their career together. Traveling in a small van, they visited virtually every college town and major city in the United States over the next several years. They played underground clubs and often recorded tracks in the van, since they lacked access to a recording studio while they were on the road.
Hüsker Dü returned to Reflex to release their first studio album Everything Falls Apart in 1982. By this time, the group had moved into the ranks of such then-underground groups as the Minutemen, R.E.M., Black Flag, the Meat Puppets, and the Replacements. Their smart and fast pop-punk songs were played on college radio stations across the United States. They became the darlings of music critics both in the United States and abroad. They released the Metal Circus EP in 1983.
SST Records, a larger independent label, released Hüsker Dü's 1984 album, Zen Arcade. The double album--which told the story of a young boy setting out on his own--was praised by both fans and critics. "Zen Arcade is probably the closest hardcore will ever get to an opera," said Rolling Stone critic David Fricke. "Hüsker Dü is as hard and fast as they come." Fricke listed the album's standouts as "Never Talking to You Again," "Pink Turns to Blue," "Hare Krsna," "Recurring Dreams," "Something I Learned Today," and "Beyond the Threshold," and declared the release a "landmark." Toward the end of 1984 Hüsker Dü recorded a cover of the Byrds' song "Eight Miles High" and released it only as a single.
The fast and furious touring and recording schedule of 1984 and 1985 began to take its toll on the band. As Mould and Hart wrestled with drug and alcohol addictions, their songwriting partnership had devolved into bitter competition. These struggles did nothing to slow the group down, however. They released two albums, New Day Rising and Flip Your Wig, in 1985.
Both albums were again well received by fans and critics, but Flip Your Wig, boasted a couple of tracks, "Makes No Sense at All" and "Games," that had airplay potential, according to Rolling Stone critic Rob Tannenbaum. "To many, the [result] ... is purposeless noise, but the message is apparent--if you can sing about heartbreak or confusion on key, you can't be too upset. And the Hüskers are always upset." The tension between Mould and Hart may have been tearing the group apart, but their music was strong in spite of it.
The members of Hüsker Dü were at their lowest point personally just as their professional career as a band really took off. They were among the first underground punk-influenced groups signed to a major record label when they finalized a contract with Warner Bros. in 1986. The resulting release, Candy Apple Grey, was a breakthrough for Hüsker Dü. Although the group's sole purpose when they began playing together, according to Rolling Stone critic Tim Holmes, was to be "the loudest, tightest, fastest band in the world," Candy Apple Grey displayed a more refined sound, "an overpowering, hypnotic effect that straddles the boundary between consonance and dissonance ... reveal[ing] the subliminal hooks, melodies, choruses, and surprisingly conventional structures supporting the towering edifice." Candy Apple Grey was not a sell-out, Holmes concluded. Instead, "[w]e should be grateful that this band wound up playing in the majors."
As Hüsker Dü's profile rose, so did their personal troubles, but the band played on. Mould and Hart were locked in a power struggle even as they turned out their second double album in three years, 1987's Warehouse: Songs and Stories. The 20-song effort, said Fricke in Rolling Stone, was "a breathtaking canvas of rainbow slam pop and lyric liberation that eclipses nearly everything in '80s post-punk rock, here or abroad." The album, Fricke continued, "is teeming with life. These are songs about real people in tough situations, scored with white-noise fury, dynamite choruses, and quite a bit of humor, however black." He even considered it "a viable candidate for album of the year."
If Fricke was right about Warehouse, the album was a good indication of what was happening within the band. Hüsker Dü was roiling with tough situations, white-noise fury, and black humor. The trio was preparing to embark on a tour in support of Warehouse when their manager, David Savor, committed suicide. Despite the tragic blow, the group completed the tour, but did not survive for long. Hart sank deeper into alcoholism and drug abuse, and although Mould cleaned up his act, Hart was fired in December of 1988, essentially dissolving the group.
Both Hart and Mould launched solo careers after Hüsker Dü's demise. Mould founded the group Sugar in 1992, but they lasted only three years before tensions split them apart in 1995; Mould, like Hart, performed thereafter as a solo artist. Norton left music entirely, and became a chef in Minneapolis.
by Brenna Sanchez
Hüsker Dü's Career
Group formed in Minneapolis, MN, 1979; released first single, "Statues," on Reflex record label, and released live debut album, Land Speed Record, 1981; released EP In a Free Land, on New Alliance Records, 1982; began touring United States and released first studio album, Everything Falls Apart, on Reflex, 1982; signed with SST Records and released double album Zen Arcade, 1984; toured and recorded constantly, 1984-85; released New Day Rising and Flip Your Wig, 1985; became first independent post-punk band to sign with a major label, Warner Bros., 1985; released Candy Apple Grey, 1986; followed by double album, Warehouse, 1987; disbanded, 1988.
- Selected discography
- Land Speed Record New Alliance, 1981.
- In a Free Land (EP), New Alliance, 1982.
- Everything Falls Apart Reflex, 1982.
- Metal Circus (EP), SST, 1983.
- Zen Arcade SST, 1984.
- New Day Rising SST, 1985.
- Candy Apple Grey Warner Bros., 1986.
- Warehouse: Songs & Stories Warner Bros., 1987.
- The Living End Warner Bros., 1994.
- Graff, Gary, editor, MusicHound Rock: The Essential Album Guide, Visible Ink, 1999.
- "Bob Mould: Biography," Granary Music, http://www.granarymusic.com/biography/bobmould.htm (September 22, 2003).
- "Hüsker Dü," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (September 22, 2003).
- "Hüsker Dü," Granary Music, http://www.granarymusic.com/biography/huskerdu.htm (September 22, 2003).
- "Hüsker Dü," RollingStone.com, http://www.rollingstone.com/huskerdu (September 22, 2003).
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