December 15, 2005

Records You Should Own

Hey, everyone, it's time once again for another monthly installment of “Records You Should Own”. Here are some holiday tune suggestions to get you in the spirit. Also, if you haven't already, feel free to map yourself - I promise, I won't show up and raid your fridge. Honestly.

At this time of year, many people (include myself) get into an angst-y self-observational mode. In that spirit, I offer this - a double album (or single CD) that sounds as fresh today as it did almost twenty years ago. This month's Record You Should Own is Warehouse: Songs & Stories by Husker Du.

Yes, I know that many of you purists are balking – why not any one of the Holy Trinity of Husker albums? In all honesty, I consider this album one of their strongest and most accessible, probably the closest thing to a punk/alternative version of the Beatles' Let It Be. (Besides, you have to start somewhere, although my Husker experience started with the obvious choice). Originally released as a double album, this is an almost transcendent demonstration of two songwriters at their peak – Bob Mould's angst & doubt countered by Grant Hart's positive, self-affirming tones. As a result, the album shows two songwriters exorcising their private demons, as well as their feelings about each other...and the listener benefits. Musically, combine Mould's guitar, Hart's drumming, and Greg Norton's bass, and you have a band that is tight, focused, and sounds like a punk-influenced Raspberries (albeit with more "adult" lyrical content).

The album begins with the cautionary “These Important Years”, wherein Mr. Mould admonishes
You better grab a hold of something
Simple but it's true
If you don't stop and smell the roses, now,
They might end up on you
The album alternates between Mould and Hart – for every song like above, Hart offers “Back from Somewhere”; for Mould's “Friend, You've Got to Fall” (with its Yardbirds riff and Beach Boys harmony) there's “She Floated Away” (which sounds like an old sea chantey); for every “Bed of Nails”, there's a “Tell You Why Tomorrow”. “You Can Live At Home”, the album's pounding closer, contains Grant Hart's anthemic declaration,
”Oh, I can fly
I can be free
I can be beautiful without you torturing me”
Within two years of this album's release, Husker Du was no more – Mould went on to a solo career, Hart overcame a severe drug addiction (and worse, tarnished reputation), and Greg Norton became a restaurateur. However, this album sounds as if it was recorded yesterday, and is easily available as a budget CD and/or used at your local indie record shop. Put it on your Xmas list, or bug a local librarian for it.

And by the way, once you hear this album, do yourself a favor and pick up Zen Arcade, Flip Your Wig, and New Day Rising. You will thank me later.

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