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Husker Du: The Story Of The Noise-Pop Pioneers Who Launched Modern Rock (Voyageur Press)

9 November 2010

Husker Du, depending on whom you ask, were either the progenitors of “post-hardcore”, the founders of “emo-core”, the first of the “college bands”, or just a kick ass punk band. Or all of the above.

Their transition from “the world’s fastest band” to “America’s best rock group” was effected in a little more than a two year span, in which they released three of the greatest albums of the modern rock era (Zen Arcade, New Day Rising, and Flip Your Wig). Then, almost as mercurially, they were gone, after a quick dalliance with the “Major Label” Warner Bros.

In their wake, they left the aural blueprint for everyone from Nirvana to The Pixies to The Foo Fighters, as well as a legacy of music that veered from mind shattering speedcore to perfect pop songs – often in the same song.

Andrew Earles Husker Du: The Story Of The Noise-Pop Pioneers Who Launched Modern Rock, tells the tale of Husker Du (Bob Mould – Guitar, Grant Hart –Drums, Greg Norton Bass).

In the author’s notes Earles outlines two potential disadvantages he had in writing the book. The first one is that he had no access to Bob Mould (who is writing his own book). The bias of the Earles book, as a result leans towards Hart and Norton’s recollections of the band. The other potential pitfall is that Earles was too young to have participated in the scene; thus his coverage relies on others’ perspectives. This is not an “insiders” book such as The Replacements All Over But The Shouting or the “scene history” Our Band Could Be Your Life. While that plays well in being objective on some of Hu Du’s output, it also renders the book somewhat dry.

However, in addition to Hart and Norton, the author was able to depend on the memories of such key players as SST record’s Joe Carducci, legendary musician Mike Watt, Hu Du insider Terry Katzman and Replacements insider Peter Jesperson.

The book’s strengths are in the clear passion that Earles has for Husker Du. He gets a little defensive occasionally (especially whenever he mentions The Replacements). His assertions of Husker Du’s role in groundbreaking music are clearly developed. Additionally, the day to day travails of being in the band are wrought out with some excellent excerpts from interviews with band members (reprinted from ‘zines of the time).

The author makes it clear in his forward that he would not be engaging in a “gossipy” tone. Thus, many of the band dynamics that would have allowed for a more comprehensive perspective of the band are not included. The sexual dynamics between Hart and Mould, the death of road manager Peter Savoy and the dissolution of the band itself are not given the coverage that is needed. In a book such as this- those pressures and observations are crucial to understanding the band. While an extremely thorough analysis of the music is included (and is a strength of the book), more concentration on the lyrical messages inherent would have been helpful as well. The book also deals in depth with the first few years of Husker Du fantastically; but does not delve into the “Candle Apple Grey” and “Warehouse” albums as well as it could have. This could be due to the sources available to speak to.

That being said, the book is a great entry point into the story of Husker Du. The author thoughtfully also includes a well researched appendix of Husker Du’s discography (including bootlegs, compilations, tribute songs and supporting articles and books). Also included are several “song lists” to allow the reader to cherry pick various styles of Husker Du.

A good over view of the band, and I await Bob Mould’s book as a companion piece to this.