After the release of their first three albums which included the classic Zen Arcade in 1984 on independent label SST Records, they signed to Warner Brothers in 1986 where they released their final two albums. After the band’s split, Mould went on to form Sugar and Hart formed Nova Mob. Both bands broke up in the 90’s after which they both embarked on their own respective solo careers. Hart died in 2017. Norton retired from the music business and opened a restaurant until 2006 when he returned to the music industry.
# 10 – Everything Falls Apart
Even though they were a thrash hardcore band at the time of the release of their debut album in 1983 of which this is the title track, on this song they showcased some unique melodic elements that broadened Mould’s potential for what would later come. During the early hardcore years, the band, who could be seen as a kind of alternative power trio, went for a new kind of speed and aggression. However, as far as songwriting went, they were not limited by genre. Even though this song is fast and aggressive, the lyrics about chaos and pain are very deep.
This album was released on CD in 1993 as Everything Falls Apart and More with bonus tracks including the band’s first two singles, the full version of “Statues” and an unreleased track called “Do You Remember?” (which is Husker Du translated into English). A remastered version was released in 2017.
# 9 – Pink Turns to Blue
Zen Arcade was the band’s landmark album that contained many moments where Hart’s songwriting really stood out. With songs such as “Never Talking To You Again” and the blazing “Turn on The News,” his lyrics have relevancy that still resonates to this day. This track is a particular highlight. With its angelic chorus, it is truly an accomplishment for Hart as a composer.
Although it was not massively commercially successful, Zen Arcade is considered to be one of the greatest and most important alternative rock albums of all time. It was very well received critically and sold over 200,000 copies and peaked at number 11 in the UK Indie charts.
# 8 – Statues
The band’s first ever single was released in 1981, a time when the band was still finding its sound. Although it shows an experimental side to the band that would be much more refined in later years, this track that sounds a lot like Public Image Ltd is very far removed from the trashy hardcore that would follow. A track that would essentially be classed as post-punk, it shows Hart’s penchant for using the scratchy guitar sound often found within that genre which would later be an integral part of the band’s sound, albeit in a different form.
# 7 – The Girl Who Lives on Heaven Hill
From 1985’s New Day Rising, this track is one of the band’s many songs that packs a punch and has a fantastic sing-along chorus. Hart is in charge of vocal duties here with his high-pitched shriek being at its best. This album notably moves from their hardcore roots into a more melodic direction. After Zen Arcade, SST requested the band release another album. They wanted to self-produce, but the label insisted that they continue to use producer Spot who had done both of their previous albums. As a result of this, the recording sessions had a tense atmosphere.
The band had also become better musicians during this time, which led to accusations of selling out which the band denied, arguing that they were naturally progressing. The album peaked at number 10 on the UK independent charts.
# 6 – Standing by the Sea
From Zen Arcade this is a slightly odd number from the band. Norton’s bass sound perfectly sets the build-up before Hart comes crashing in with his vocals on the chorus. The use of ocean sound effects is somewhat questionable but at least they are an apt accompaniment to the song’s atmosphere. Like all tracks on Zen Arcade the lyrics tell part of a conceptual story about a young boy who runs away from an unhappy home life only to find a world outside which is much worse.
# 5 – Celebrated Summer
From New Day Rising, this is another track that features a particularly powerful guitar onslaught from Mould and is one of the finest moments in American underground music. Although it can sound a little machine-like at times, Mould is a talented enough writer to be able to put some genuine emotion into the songs. The two elements put together make for an interesting combination.
# 4 – Diane
This track from 1983’s Metal Circus ep was covered by Therapy? In 1995 their version reached number 26 on the charts, making it more commercially successful than the original version. This was an early college radio track that stood out to many listeners. It has a very dark atmosphere and is rather sad sounding. This is due to its very graphic lyrical content, with the song’s namesake being Diane Edwards, a waitress from Minnesota who was brutally raped and murdered.
# 3 – Never Talking to You Again
This track from Zen Arcade is possibly the band’s angriest song which is ironic given that it is their first purely acoustic number. Even though it is not about any such thing lyrically, the growing tensions between Mould and Hart that would follow them throughout the rest of their career are arguably evident here. This came about after Mould demanded that he and Hart were given individual songwriting credits on the album as opposed to them both receiving credit for all of the songs.
# 2 – Sorry Somehow
This track is taken from 1986’s Candy Apple Grey, an album that saw the band move into a much more radio-friendly direction. The song was released as an EP and was the album’s first single. Written by Hart, the song shows his capability to write a commercial hit here, which may have been the case had the album had a more polished production. By this point the band had left SST, signing with Warner Brothers, and were producing their albums themselves.
# 1 – Could You Be The One?
Finally, is this track from the band’s final album 1987’s Warehouse: Songs and Stories. Mould’s lyrics such as “I don’t even know what I’m fighting for” perfectly sum up the state of the band at the time. It was a satisfying swansong for the group which had managed to make a significant impact in a short space of time. The melodies contained within the song hint at what Mould would go on to do with Sugar.
Hart was using drugs heavily during this time, which was the main source of conflict between him and Mould. Also, they were both unhappy with several of Norton’s bass tracks to the point where they decided to re-record them themselves. The album charted at 117 on the Billboard 200 and spent one week in the UK album charts at number 72.
Updated June 12, 2023
Top 10 Husker Du Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2023
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