The Austin Chronicle

Heart-Shaped Box Sets

Reviewed by Tim Stegall, December 8, 2017, Music

Hüsker Dü's history, 1979-87, represents a concise evolution of American indie rock.

Beginning as Ramones and Johnny Thunders progeny in the heart of Minnesota, recently deceased drummer/co-singer/composer Grant Hart's tempos, bassist Greg Norton, and guitarist/main singer-songwriter Bob Mould's amp tones quickly turbocharged as punk went hardcore. Heavily influenced by Sixties folk-rock, the trio's keen melodic sense flowered into a mid-Eighties peak of SST Records (Zen Arcade and New Day Rising) and Warner Bros. output (Candle Apple Grey, Warehouse: Songs and Stories). UK rock weekly NME described them in a period live review as the atomic-pop "Buzzcocks grown desperate and huge."

Savage Young Dü isn't a comprehensive career cap, but instead chronicles the band's early evolution through previously unreleased demos, practice tapes, live recordings, and a careful remaster of second LP Everything Falls Apart. There's also singles from the group's Reflex imprint and a sonically superior alternate take of 1981 live debut Land Speed Record, which established Hüsker Dü as the fiercest thrash band this side of Bad Brains in the early hardcore scene. Everything they became arcs through the boutique, 3-CD set: hard-pop demos like "Industrial Grocery Store," a pre-hardcore phase cover of the Heartbreakers' "Chinese Rocks," and the ringing harmonics employed by Bob Mould via pealing guitar aggression as found on second single "In a Free Land."

Once the second disc unearths Hart's Metal Circus menace-pop staple "Diane" in an early live take, every element locks into place. Lavishly boxed with a beautifully annotated book, including several pics from an 1981 Sixth Street gig at the Ritz snapped by local Bill Daniel, Savage Young Dü aches breadth and depth.


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