Hüsker Dü -- Zen Arcade


As published in the Daily Collegian on September 19, 1984

In the past few years, metal and corporate rock bands like Journey and Loverboy have claimed sole title to the description "Rock and Roll" That claim, in fact, is a myth that has been forced upon the American public by reactionary and conservative radio stations. There is not only one way to rock, so to speak. There are as many styles of rock and roll as there are bands. Just because a band isn't being played on the local "rock" stations doesn't mean it isn't rock and roll -- it means that it isn't commercial enough for mass appeal.

To illustrate my point, a band that doesn't fit in with the mainstream idea of rock and roll, but by any logical definition, certainly is.

Hüsker Dü is a power trio from Minnesota, which is now the home of two seperate, but vital, scenes -- Prince, and his funk rockers, and Twin/Tone records, and their punk rockers. The Hüskers have a new record out, a two-record set called Zen Arcade. Like most double albums, Zen Arcade has some filler, but much of the filler is highly entertaining, and that's what makes this record successful. You see, Hüsker Dü is considered a hardcore punk band, but there is much more on this album than the mindless thrash-by-numbers associated with most hardcore bands. Sure, there is a lot of thrash in their music, but what sets them apart is that there is a lot of music in their thrash. And things like backwards music and acoustic instruments strike a balance with the faster stuff.

But even on the faster stuff, Hüsker Dü is different from most of the metal and hardcore bands. There are two major reasons for this: a very strong sense of melody, and lyrics that are more than misogynist fastasy power trips. The very best songs on this album combine the melody punctuated by shimmeriing guitar and intense vocals to create very cathartic music.

On things like "Chartered Trips," a song about starting over, "Pink Turns to Blue," a sad lost love song, "Whatever," and the anti-nuke "Newest Industry," the Hüskers play some of the most technically accomplished hardcore ever. It's not for everybody, but if you enjoy fast and loud rock and roll, you might want to try Hüsker Dü's Zen Arcade.

As a matter of fact, I'd recommend it unequivocally if they hadn't left their version of The Byrds' "Eight Miles High" off of the album. Available only as an import single, their version ignores the great drumming and wonderful harmonies of the original in favor of wild vocals and some psychedelic shred guitar. It shines brilliantly throughout. Try and hunt down this single if you can.

--Jim Connelly

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I was listening to Magnetic Fields -- 69 Love Songs