Friday, September 23, 2005

Husker Du: Candy Apple Grey

Warner Brothers LP, 1986

An album in which the un-suckiness curve seems to asymptotically start at infinity with "Crystal" and then go down to approach zero with the final songs. It's really a cock-tease of an album because "Crystal" is so fucking good I'm willing to say it might be Mould's best recorded song in their ouvre. And here's also an album in which Hart's good songs beat Moulds 2-1 (even though he has more songs than Hart, huh?). And that's not a lower denominator fraction - I really mean two songs to his one song: "Don't Want To Know If You're Lonely" and perhaps one of Hart's finest songs: "Sorry Somehow."

The second side is like the worst parts of side 1, song by song. Here Hart does a piano-based drippy ballad (and lemme tell you I ain't anti-ballad, I mean "Beth" is my favorite Kiss song even if Peter Kriss looked right silly singing around a campfire with all the make-up on). And speaking of ballads, I haven't even mentioned Bob "I Wanna Be on College Radio" Mould's Billy Braggish falsetto-laced "Too Far Down" on the previous side.

Side two and assorted songs on side one sound almost like a bunch of bad college rock bands trying to imitate Husker Du and then being covered by Husker Du. "Hardly Getting Over It" is a nicely arranged song what with the sonorous piano counterpoint and that non-Spot great sounding drums but the lyrics are incredibly inane and, well, collegian. Hart's "Dead Set On Destruction," is made topical by that large lady Rita (he likens a bad relationship to flying a plane into a hurricane) and it sports a song idea that Foo Fighters later honed to pop perfection (over and over again) and planeloads of dollars but it's way off the mark and seems to be flying through a puddle, not a hurricane. I only mention "Eiffel Tower High" (neat title) or the shudder-producing "No Promises Have I Made" and the closer, Mould's softening of the "Divide and Conquer" with the tedious "All This I've Done For You", a song about as exciting as watching Wheaties cereal go damp.

But... what a way to open an album.... "Crystal"... I'm still shaking after hearing it after so long. It's like that empty-chested feeling you get before a heart attack (no, I don't know, I'm guessing) or when you're in teenage puppy love. "100,000 niiiiights!" Great, great, great.

On the serious, sort of time continuum, groove - note that in the time from the awesome Flip Your Wig - which preceded this album - Grant Hart has gone from being the goofy guy in love (albeit attracted to dangerous girls) to the bitter break-up dude "dead set on destruction". His girlfriend is even suing him. Historians have noted that it was after this album he began his slide into heroin addiction and band acrimony that would later lead to their break-up and the overdone Warehouse double LP. Mould's progression from Flip Your Wig and the previous records is also interesting. He seems to have moved on from politics and being kinda angry with the world to being angry with himself and in the throes of an "identity management" crisis ("I Don't Know For Sure" and even "Crystal" with its evocation of that old literary staple Hermann Hesse's Steppenwolf and its broken mirror). I've wondered if "Eiffel Tower High", however lousy of a song I think it is, was about his ambivalence about girls (as reflected by the girl's ambivalence about him).

So whaddya say, we split it in half. Worst Du album, best recorded song by Mould and possibly Hart. Anybody wanna defend the other songs?

Songs to Sample This Record:
Our Friday rocker is "Crystal" by Bob Mould - I HIGHLY RECOMMEND THIS SONG and BUYING THIS ALBUM JUST FOR THIS SONG... and here's Hart's "Don't Want To Know If You Are Lonely", some of his best lyrics and best anguished singing, I think - and with organ.

This was such a cool publicity shot taken around the time they were doing publicity for this disc that I had to steal it from the smart little Du site Third Avenue... which is also known as the Husker Du Database... there's plenty more memorabilia and fan stuff there. Hours of insomniac exploration await.



substitute said...

The sad end of Husker Du had a lot of great sad songs to it. Even "Warehouse" which you rightly tag as overblown has some gems. In fact, I still can't listen to most of it because it's so affecting.

Jim H said...

Yeah, and I'm probably a little too hard on "Hardly Getting Over It" - I mean there's alot of songs I like where I don't get the lyrics or think theyre' dumb. Maybe its 2-2 for those keeping Mould-Hart scores. I like Warehouse better than this.

SweetEd said...

Candy Apple Grey is my least favorite Husker Du album. But that is not what I want to comment on. Rather, I know that Grant Hart used some feminine pronouns in his lyrics, but I'm pretty sure that Grant was never into females. Both he and Mould are currently a few strides out of the closet.

Courtney said...

Your Foo Fighters comparision seems dead on. Grant has even gone so far as to perform on stage with them when they've covered "Girl Who Lives on Heaven Hill". Bob and Grant played "Hardly Getting Over It" together during their 2-song "reunion" at the Rock for Karl (Mueller, late of Soul Asylum) benefit. Bob plays that song frequently on his solo acoustic tours.

Not the greatest Du album, for sure, but Crystal will run you over like a truck.

The guy who runs Third Avenue has a shirt with Husker Du written in Yiddish on it. I was at a Bob Mould show with him, and a guy came up to him and offered him 40 bucks for it on the spot. Paul didn't bite, naturally.

Eric said...

I agree - "Crystal" - it shatters your brain into a million tiny pieces. The whole album slides into the crapper after that and "Don't Want To Know" and is my least favorite Du album. I do like "All This...", but perhaps that's because its rock action washes away the nasty taste of the ballads that precede it.

Warehouse was better, more guitar focused. That said, they could have pared it down to one, tight LP instead of the bloated sprawl it is. "Turn It Around"? Oh puke.

Anonymous said...

candle apply grey was the first husker du album i ever heard. it was the other side of tape given to me with 'they might be giants' first album on it - talk about a contrast! crystal was always a little raw for me, to be honest. great post, though.

Jakob said...

hmmm...this was my first real audio exposure to this band (read about them several times in azerrad's book) and i can't say i was a fan. sorry. :(

Seb said...

I've actually been listening to "Zen Arcade" ad nauseum this month, so it's nice to see a little online resonance.

I have to confess that I'd never even heard Husker Du until I was into my twenties, and even then I decided to check 'em out in a really ass-backwards fashion: Alan McGee (of Creation Records) said he signed My Bloody Valentine back in '87 because they sounded like "a British Husker Du." Which isn't actually off the mark, when you compare something like "Something I Learned Today" and "Feed Me With Your Kiss" (off MBV's "Isn't Anything").

And as always, I'm covetous of Greg Norton's moustache.

gerhardj said...

"Crystal" is of course fantastic but I actually really like "Dead Set on Destruction." It might even be my favorite Grant song of all. Where does it go off the mark?

You might have also mentioned that this was their major label debut, making "Crystal" all the more startling. What a way to grab the world's attention...

C. said...

I'm with you--apart from the two great Hart songs and "Crystal", this album is pretty dire. But oddly, I've always liked Warehouse a great deal, though it's obviously padded...--

perhaps because the Huskers' best albums were recorded so poorly ("Spot"'s paper-thin drum sound) that the later Warners stuff seems better simply because it's listenable.

cliff said...

Not my favorite album of theirs either - I found that whatever appeal it had wore off after my teenage years, where New Day Rising and Flip Your Wig just keep giving and giving. That said, the live electric version of "Hardly Getting Over It" on The Living End kicks all kinds of ass over the version on this album.

D said...

Unlike other's who have commented, this is my favorite Husker Du album. It was my first real listen to them and I feel it is more accessible than their earlier ones. The songs had such an impact on me that just rereading the title tracks from my copy, I can hear the songs in my head & I have not listened to it in years. Favorite tracks are, well shoot all of em. but do favor Crystal & Sorry Somehow. Now after reading this, I am going to listen to the album. Thanks!

Bratwurst said...

I can't believe all people praising Crystal, that's the worst song on the album (yep, worse than No Promise Have I Made) and one of their worst overall up there with some of the really early material.