1979 – 1987 (8 years)
Saint Paul, Ramsey County, Minnesota, United States
Hüsker Dü was a punk band from Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota, active from 1979 to 1987. The band consisted of Bob Mould (guitars, vocals), Greg Norton (bass) and Grant Hart (1961 – 2017) (drums, vocals). Mould and Hart split the song-writing duties. The band was never widely popular, but had an impact much larger than sales might indicate. "Hüsker Dü" is Danish/Norwegian for "Do You Remember" (a popular children's game). Hüsker Dü first gained notice as a hardcore band, with thrashing tempos & screamed vocals, but also with a melodic, soulful edge that became more pronounced in the band's mid-career, as they drifted away from their early sound. They were also a striking trio on stage — far different from the typical hardcore band of the time — with Mould's hulking, doughy presence shouting angrily at stage left, offset by the generally unkempt, long-haired Hart flailing on the drums, and the lanky, good-natured Norton, who sported a waxed handlebar moustache for most of the band's career.
Hüsker Dü broke with the anti-traditionalist ethos of most early hardcore bands. Their early songwriting shows the influence of folk, 1960s pop music, blues, and other forms (although often buried under a thick layer of angst and aggression), and has a strong melodic sense. The lyrics made astute, sharp, personal and social commentary, showing a great deal of vulnerability and sympathy for their subjects. Hüsker Dü's songwriting was widely admired, and their live shows were often a venue for brilliant improvisational playing. (A feedback-laden solo guitar performance from an early-'80s soundcheck tape merited release via the avant-garde Telus Magazine.) Hüsker Dü were also, however, widely regarded as somewhat unusual-sounding in their early prime, due to the instruments' non-standard tones: Mould's guitar is described below, while Hart's drums were considered 'thumpy' (and he consistently played slightly behind the beat); Norton played bass fairly laconically even at fast tempos, using his fingers rather than a pick. The band's sound can be considered an organic synthesis of these elements – a unit that was quite powerful in combination, yet perhaps difficult to parse singly.
A particular strength of the group was the two powerhouse singer/songwriters, Mould and Hart. The tension between their musical styles (Mould was generally the angrier songwriter, Hart the more melodic one), and their willingness to collaborate, made the sum of their contributions greater than their parts. Another strength was Mould's unique, resonant guitar sound, described by a critic at the time as "molten metal pouring from the speakers." Mid-period Hüsker Dü songs are immediately recognizable via Mould's incandescent guitar tone, achieved by splitting the signal in the studio between amplified and direct tones and adding a light stereo chorus effect. Mould's technique involved playing resonant drone notes on the high strings. Although a trio, Hüsker Dü generally sounded extremely large on record and live.
The group is also notable as one of the first 1980s American underground rock bands to contract with a major record label, a move that blazed the trail for the rise of alternative rock a few years later. Another key Minneapolis band who served as an alternative rock icebreaker was The Replacements, who had a friendly rivalry with Hüsker Dü.
Mould has gone on to release other albums, including a recent solo double album release called Body of Song. Prior to that he took a stint as a writer for World Championship Wrestling (WCW) scripting scenarios and fights.
Grant Hart died from cancer on September 14, 2017.
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