Tuesday, June 30, 2009

495. New Day Rising- the best example of whatever genre this stuff is.



Album: New Day Rising
Artist: Husker Du
Year: 1985
Genre: Hardcore punk with a soft centre? Honestly I’m not sure.

1. New Day Rising
2. The Girl Who Lives on Heaven Hill
3. I Apologize
4. Folk Lore
5. If I Told You
6. Celebrated Summer
7. Perfect Example
8. Terms of Psychic Warfare
9. Times the Pain
10. Powerline
11. Books About UFOs
12. I Don't Know What You're Talking About
13. How to Skin a Cat
14. Whatcha Drinkin
15. Plans I Make

I have to come clean here and admit that the only thing I knew about Husker Du before I heard New Day Rising was their name. I was aware that there was a band out there called Husker Du but I couldn’t tell you what genre they fit into. Late 60’s psychedelic? Early eighties latin grooves? Gansta Rap? Polka? I had no idea. Having listened to New Day Rising several times I’m still not sure I could put them in a box, which is ironic since it sounds like their album was recorded in a carton. If you twisted my arm and demanded I gave them a genre then I’d probably say they were punk but they don’t sound like any punk I’ve ever heard before.

Most of the songs on New Day Rising are lightning fast. They come flying at you at a million beats per minute (actually 198 beats per minute, I counted) with distorted guitar chords forming a soup from which the vocals don’t seem capable of escaping, which is very hardcore punk. Maybe I need to broaden my horizons (perhaps by listening to the top 500 albums?) but Husker Du seem to break out of the traditional punk box. Their lyrics are esoteric, there is an attempt at harmonized backing vocals, the guitarist takes a lead break, the bass player provides melodic runs and at one point there’s even a honky tonk piano.

The one thing that is very Punk about New Day Rising is the production. I listened with earphones and still couldn’t tell if the album was in mono or just really tight stereo. It sounds like the producer shoved the band down one end of a corridor and then set up a mic, told them to sing their song and let the echo decide who was right or wrong. At times the lead vocals sit clearly on top of the rest of the album while at other times it’s so submerged you could believe they were just muttering along to guide their playing. Apparently this was produced by a guy named Spot who is a well regarded punk producer. I could be wrong but I it strikes me that the role of producer on punk labels is pretty different to mainstream rock. I think he’s main responsibility is producing the drugs at the right time. Or perhaps the songs on New Day Rising are so fast that the band had played them through before Spot realised they’d started.

Depending on your point of view the production of New Day Rising is either its major flaw or the source of much of its appeal. Either way I really enjoyed it. It caught me by surprise but I have to say I’m becoming a bit of a fan of the Du (or The Huskers, I must work out what the correct lingo is). There are some great songs here: I Apologise is really catchy as is The Girl Who Lives on Heaven Hill. I even like the first track (although slightly less since I realised they were repeating “New Day Rising” and not “Nude Arising” which struck me as a great lyric). The highlight is possibly Books about UFO’s which I would describe as jaunty if I wasn’t worried about offending Husker Du fans who don’t strike me as the jaunty type. It’s a honky-tonk tune with distorted guitars and says more than anything else that Husker Du don’t care about genres they just like playing what they play. Good for them, it certainly worked for me.

Highlight: Books about UFO’s it’s my new favourite song.
Lowlight: Celebrated Summer. For many this is the standout track due to its Heavy/Light but when the vocals get buried under a single acoustic guitar I just get frustrated.
Influenced by: A keen desire not to be boxed.
Influenced: American college bands who shared the above sentiment.
Favourite Amazon customer review quote: “Best album by the greatest band ever. Therefore my friends, this is the greatest album of all-time.”
-You have to love people who aren’t afraid to make the bold statements.

So do you Husker Du or do you Husker Don’t? Let me know below.

4 comments:

  1. Another good post. Interestingly you have in fact heard of Husker Du before as the Choir mention them in the lyrics of one of their songs. The track ‘Fine Fun Time’ off ‘O How the Mighty Have Fallen’ contains the lyric "Only time will tell And time will prove what I know is true Husker Du is the most influential rock n roll group"

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  2. Thanks for clearing that up. I knew I'd heard the name being sung somewhere but I never would have picked that was where.

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  3. I love the song I Apologize. It's almost like...jangly...hardcore pop(???)

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  4. Good call. I like the idea of Jangly Hardcore Pop.

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