HÜSKER DÜ Land Speed Record (SST)
HÜSKER DÜ Metal Circus (SST)
These are two reissued mini-albums from Bob Moulds early years. "Land Speed Record" showcases Hüsker Düs amphetamine frenzy live show circa 1981, and its possibly the most aptly titled release since "Thick As A Brick"...17 tracks, 26 minutes, a blizzard of indignant noise of an intensity that neither the Dü nor Sugar ever came close to matching again. Not that it makes for a particularly satisfactory listening experience - although if you study closely you may detect traces of classics such as "Bricklayer" and the mellow(er) five minute closer "Data Control" - but as an aural document of what disaffected, alienated American youth were up to before doing nothing at all became hip it earns its colours.
Somewhat less frenetic - only just, though - is 1983s "Metal Circus", now reissued on ten inches of groovy blue vinyl and recorded in "Hypersonic Stereo", according to the back cover. Galloping maturity meant that they could now only fit 7 songs into 20 minutes, but their music was still scarcely less one-dimensional than it had been two years earlier. Highlights include "Its Not Funny Anymore", a feature of their live set right to the very end, and "Diane", a harrowing tale of rape and murder later covered by Therapy?. Even so, compared to the kind of pummelling but musical assault they would soon be fashioning on the "New Day Rising" album, "Metal Circus" is just so much noise.
HÜSKER DÜ Everything Falls Apart And More (Rhino)
"Everything Falls Apart" is Hüsker Dü's first studio album, issued in 1983 and of sufficient rarity to make even a die-hard CD atheist like meself look kindly on this shiny silver reissue, especially as its accompanied by a clutch of even-more-impossible-to-find contemporary singles and demos.
Slightly more sophisticated than the speed/thrash meltdown of the earlier live recording "Land Speed Record", but still many acres away from the Byrdsian jangle that crept into later classics such as "New Day Rising", "Everything Falls Apart" finds Bob Mould's first and finest power trio displaying the first vestiges of hummable tunes amidst the punk rock murk - tunes that sometimes only last thirty seconds, admittedly, but tunes nevertheless. Heck, they even attempt a cover of Donovan's "Sunshine Superman".
Of even greater interest are the singles tagged on the end of the original twenty minute album, amongst which is the original version of "In A Free Land", far and away my favourite Hüsker Dü track: power, conviction, a compressed production that positively encourages the use of ridiculously high volumes, all wrapped up in the kind of adrenaline-rush tune that the young Clash could only dream of writing, if this doesn't convince you of Bob Mould's genius then nothing will. Other fascinating artefacts include the original eight minute version of the "Statues" single, which betrays what could diplomatically be described as a strong Public Image influence, and the cathartic minute-long howl of "What Do I Want?".
The legacy of Hüsker Dü is still alive and kicking in today's young bands - Idlewild's recent "NME Premier Shows" appearance on Channel 4 demonstrates that conclusively - but nobody seems to have expressed rage, anger and disgust as well as Bob Mould in his formative years; nobody else has managed to back up the splatter with substance. For that reason, it seems like the importance of releases like "Everything Falls Apart And More" can only increase with time.
HUSKER DU The Living End (Warner Bros.)
Husker Du were the first band of Sugar singer/songwriter/guitarist/keyboardist/Frank Black lookalike Bob Mould, and this 77-minute live CD/tape (...), taken from mixing desk tapes made during their last ever tour in October 1987, is possibly the most frenzied recording he's ever put his name to - louder than last year's "Beaster" mini-album even! The 24 tracks include the soul-baringly honest "Hardly Getting Over It" (a song about old age, no less), the manic deranged waltz of "She Floated Away" and Title of the year Contenders "Terms of Psychic Warfare" and "Books About UFOs". The sound, although not the clearest you'll ever here, matches the music and sense of occasion marvellously (as would the booklet notes, if they were actually legible), and the band's attempts weld pop tunes with hard-core punk attitude are still relevant seven years on. Not as polished as the great man's subsequent offerings, but maybe historically even more important.Bob Mould