Thursday, February 12, 2004

#75) Husker Du - Zen Arcade (recorded in 1984, I bought it on CD at Vibes, a branch of the National Record Mart chain that closed up here years ago. I think I got it my senior year of high school)

Husker Du refused to believe that the brutality and cultural criticism of hardcore couldn’t be mixed beauty of psychedelia and songcraft, and we’ve been hearing echoes of their virtuous efforts in the field of “underground rock” ever since. While all of the trio’s full-lengths from this one on are worthwhile platters filled with classic tracks (my pick for least essential, Flip Your Wig, is many people’s favorite), Zen Arcade is the one that I find most consistently exciting. While the actual “concept” of the album - something about a boy leaving home - isn’t particularly defined (no biggie), its thematic flow keeps the less essential tracks from standing out as blatant filler. In fact, one of the stronger anthems on the album, “Turn On The News,” always kinds of bugs me with its relatively coherency. All the tracks before it, whether focused on revulsion, confusion or sadness, share a harried mixture of determination and naked fright. The double LP (single CD) was allegedly recorded in two days, and while it’s astounding that they crammed so many ideas and sounds into a single album (especially since only “Hare Krshna” sounds anything like a genre exercise), the recording time explains why the album sounds so sleepless and psychotic. I can’t say I expect other bands to put themselves in similar positions of self-instigated pressure, but it paid off beautifully here.

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