The Living End

Husker Du

Warner Brothers Records, 1994üsker_Dü

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


I'm about to draw an analogy that's sure to anger some people: The partnership of Husker Du's Bob Mould and Grant Hart was to punk rock what John Lennon and Paul McCartney were to pop.

Although both bands started out as leaders in their respected fields, each band soon found themselves torn as the principal songwriters each tried to go in their own directions. Like Lennon, Mould wanted to be the innovator in sound and texture, throwing caution to the wind in favor of a sound that was pleasing to him. Like McCartney, Hart had the heart of a pop star, daring to follow the road marked by melody and well-crafted songs.

Eventually, all of this must come to a head. With The Beatles, it was the untitled "White Album". With Husker Du, I hear that musical tension in The Living End, a posthumous release chronicling the final tour of this Minneapolis trio.

Recorded during Husker Du's brief 1987 tour, this album could almost be seen as a live compilation (I hesitate to use the term "best-of", for that's usually thrown onto albums from groups who achieve superstardom) of their all-too-short career together. While such a set might be a little too much to take for the person who is just discovering the napalm attack that was Husker Du, for the diehard fan, this album is sure to please.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

In these performances, one hears Mould pouring everything into his own performances, his voice cracking under the strains of his vocal shouts, his guitar wailing almost like it's alive, and Mould is merely trying to guide it back onto the road. Hart happily pounds away on his drumkit, and makes the most of each opportunity he gets to be the lead vocalist. (I found it intriguing to hear a more punked-out version of "Now That You Know Me," a song that Hart eventually put on his first solo album.) All the while, bassist Greg Norton seems to be the anchor for the band, plunking away while watching the musical tension unfolding on stage.

As a band, Husker Du was a bit sloppy - but in this case, that style worked well for them, as having a neatly structured sound would have defeated the whole purpose. From the opening notes of "New Day Rising," that style is showcased in a devil-may-care manner, almost as if the band knew they were creating something that was going to last a lifetime.

And there are some incredible performances on The Living End. While I have never been able to get into Warehouse: Songs And Stories (the band's last studio album), their rendition of "Ice Cold Ice" here is enough to warm up the Chicago lakeside. Other numbers like "Friend, You've Got To Fall", "Celebrated Summer" and "In A Free Land" all show just how underappreciated Husker Du was in their time. And who can't resist their closing number, a cover of The Ramones's "Sheena Is A Punk Rocker"?

But there are a few miscues on The Living End as well. I wonder why the band chose to do "Hardly Getting Over It", when there were better selections off of Candy Apple Grey they could have chosen. To me, "What's Going On" (from the classic Zen Arcade) will never top the original - and you need the plinking piano to make this song sound right. Other numbers like "Terms Of Psychic Warfare" and "Girl Who Lives On Heaven Hill" are very much hit-or-miss, and will depend on your own personal likes and dislikes of Husker Du's catalog.

For that matter, The Living End is an album that has to grow on you over time. I've owned this album since it came out five years ago, and this last time that I listened to it (I think it was the first time I'd dug this tape out in two years) found me enjoying it the most. With The Living End, the key word is patience.

Husker Du has been broken up now for over a decade, but their influence is still very much felt. The Living End, even with its few problems, shows us how much this band is still missed.

Rating: B

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 1999 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Warner Brothers Records, and is used for informational purposes only.