Saturday, December 27, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Hüsker Dü’s ambitious legacy lives on as ‘Zen Arcade’ turns 30

decicco column sig

By
From page B1 | July 11, 2014 |

Thirty years ago, one of the hottest places in American music was the Twin Cities in Minnesota.

In 1984, three of that area’s most prominent artists of the day released career-defining work in a four-month period: R&B/funk legend Prince served “Purple Rain,” hardcore punk trio Hüsker Dü dropped “Zen Arcade” and The Replacements issued “Let it Be.”

Three powerful records in such a short period helped put Minnesota on the map as a major player in the 1980s. All three are records that have held up well against the harsh critic of time.

“Purple Rain” is the most famous and best remembered of the bunch, a career-defining work from an ’80s icon. While Prince bathed in the limelight, Hüsker Dü and The ’Mats (nickname for the The Replacements) were part of a burgeoning underground rock scene.

“Zen Arcade,” which was released 30 years ago this month, showed St. Paul, Minnesota’s Hüsker Dü trio expanding beyond the blistering, brutal work of its first album into bolder territory.

Although Hüsker Dü only lasted from 1979 to 1987, its sound and style changed greatly in that time. The band, composed of guitarist/vocalist Bob Mould, drummer/vocalist Grant Hart and bassist Greg Norton, took its name from the Concentration-esque 1970s board game “Hūsker Dū?,” which translates from Danish and Norwegian as “Do you remember?”

In its infancy, Hüsker Dü was known for its abrasive approach to hardcore punk, gigging throughout the Midwest and garnering attention for its speedy, melodic brand of punk. Those are the qualities that caught the attention of Black Flag guitarist Greg Ginn, who inked the band to his SST label.

Cut almost exclusively in first takes, “Zen Arcade” was the first of two slabs Hüsker Dü generated for SST. The album was made in approximately 85 hours, almost half of which was mixing.

Where the group’s first studio effort, “Everything Falls Apart,” focused on the group’s speed and brutality, offering 12 tracks in under 20 minutes, “Zen Arcade” is a 70-minute carousel of sounds under the banner of hardcore punk. Instead of the band’s loud and fast style, it ventured deeper into melodic territory and beyond.

Although “Zen” fires an opening shot across the hardcore punk bow with the incendiary “Something I Learned Today,” Hüsker Dü opens up the listening space with its experimentations: Acoustic rocker “Never Talking to You Again,” the backwards-playing psychedelia of “Dreams Reoccuring” and even the piano interlude “Monday Will Never Be the Same.” The record ends with “Reoccuring Dreams,” 14 minutes of screeching guitar work recorded live that leaves the listener wondering what they just heard.

“Turn on the News,” which made the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s list of the Songs That Shaped Rock ’n’ Roll, showcases drummer/vocalist Grant Hart snarling about the media over a three-chord attack.

Detractors call “Zen Arcade” a bloated, unfocused mess, a criticism that is understandable if a bit inaccurate. “Zen” is imperfect, but it would be a different, less memorable record without all of its dalliances, diatribes and diversions.

It’s also emblematic of the state of punk itself, circa 1984. While The Clash abandoned its punk roots to “Rock the Casbah,” Hüsker Dü opened the boundaries of what punk could be without surrendering its identity in the process. It gives “Zen Arcade” integrity, which is something that has helped it withstand the whiplash of time.

It’s also forgotten as a concept record. Considering punk rock was, in part, a response to the rock opera records of classic rock juggernauts such as Pink Floyd and The Who, it’s surprising Hüsker Dü turned the formula on its head. Rolling Stone magazine, picking up on this, called it “a kind of thrash ‘Quadrophenia.’ ”

For a group that cut six albums in its eight years, it’s hard to think of Hüsker Dü’s “Zen Arcade” as a transitional record. Yet it was, for the band, its role in the punk scene and the 1980s underground rock. It points the direction the band was headed and that punk, too, would have to adapt to remain important.

It also helped establish Minnesota as a fertile ground for great music during the 1980s.

While Hüsker Dü and The Replacements never enjoyed the same sort of chart success as Prince, the impact of “Zen Arcade” and the music scene they shared in the Twin Cities in 1984 still ripples out.

To read more of Nick DeCicco’s blogs, visit http://dailyrepublic.typepad.com/forthoseabouttorock. Follow him on Twitter @ndeciccodr.

Nick DeCicco

Nick DeCicco

Nick DeCicco is the editor of the Tailwind and writes the pop culture blog/column For Those About to Rock. Before joining the DR staff in July 2007, DeCicco (pronounced Deh-CEE-Coh) worked at The Union in Grass Valley, Calif., and the Greeley Tribune in Greeley, Colo. A 2004 graduate of the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, DeCicco spends his free time attending concerts, listening to music, going to movies, traveling and hiking.
LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

.

Solano News

Suisun Valley celebrates appellation’s anniversary

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Suisun museum adds Japanese-American internment exhibit

By Ian Thompson | From Page: A1 | Gallery

Girl’s selfless act boosts Suisun Wildlife Center

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

 
Beer for 1st butterfly of year challenge returns

By Ian Thompson | From Page: A3 | Gallery

 
Fairfield firefighters save Christmas for family

By Ian Thompson | From Page: A3

SF Giants championship trophy coming to Vacaville

By Ian Thompson | From Page: A3

 
Fire damages Fairfield home

By Ian Thompson | From Page: A3

Car rolls over on Highway 113

By Ian Thompson | From Page: A3

 
Fairfield man killed after family gathering in Napa

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: A4

USA Weekend magazine ceases publication

By Glen Faison | From Page: B6

 
Suisun City police log: Dec. 25, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A9

Fairfield police log: Dec. 25, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A9

 
 
.

US / World

California braces for first widespread frost

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
California gears up for migrant driver’s licenses

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

4 dead in fiery Northern California car crash

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

 
Police officer shoots woman in leg in Hollywood

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4, 2 Comments

Inmate breaks out of jail through ventilation duct

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

 
People slide down bedsheets to escape motel fire

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

Court: LA Police Department policy for impounding cars is OK

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

 
Man shot to death in struggle over officer’s baton

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

Study: Marijuana use has increased in Colorado

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Dog not gone: Rescue in the Columbia Gorge

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Bodies of woman, 3 grandsons found in burned home

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Truck crashes into home; 93-year-old resident dies

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Scientists target mess from Christmas tree needles

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Baby ostracized by other gorillas will switch zoos

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Thousands attend 8-hour wake for slain NYC officer

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 1 Comment

 
Lawmakers promise to help strapped oil-patch towns

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

Feline fame in cyberspace gives species a boost

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
At 101, dedicated union rep is calling it quits

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Can GOP shatter ‘Obama coalition’ in 2016?

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
GPS used to track some immigrants caught at border

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

10th anniversary of tsunami is marked with tears

By The Associated Press | From Page: A11

 
.

Opinion

 
Sony hack is reminder of broader Sony dysfunction

By William Pesek | From Page: A8

A proud man, a good honorable man

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A8, 2 Comments

 
.

Living

Today in History: Dec. 27, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Community Calendar: Dec. 27, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

Horoscopes: Dec. 27, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: B5

 
Remember, caregivers need some care attention, too

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: B5

Cow that fled slaughterhouse in 2006 has new home, again

By The Associated Press | From Page: B10

 
.

Entertainment

TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
1990s TV star ‘Screech’ charged in bar stabbing

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
Jazz great Buddy DeFranco dies at age 91

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

.

Sports

Suns outlast Kings 115-106 for 5th straight win

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Anthony Davis, Roman meet over tweet

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Cleveland reaches 50 years of sports futility

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Games to Remember from 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Rutgers beats North Carolina in Quick Lane Bowl

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

La. Tech beats Illinois 35-18 in Heart of Dallas Bowl

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Arizona’s Lindley back at starter, Stanton has infection

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Prep JV boys basketball: Vanden gets win in Dixon tourney

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B2

 
Could Watt be 1st NFL MVP from defense since Taylor in 1986?

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Dan Uggla joins Nationals for minor league deal

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Georgia’s Richt: RB Todd Gurley heading to NFL

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Slumping New Jersey Devils fire coach Pete DeBoer

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
No. 1 Kentucky, No. 4 Louisville resume rivalry

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Raiders rookie CB makes most of opportunity

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
High-scoring offenses create longer college games

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Anderson: post-game petulance was out of character

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

 
Chiefs QB Alex Smith out with lacerated spleen

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Globetrotters’ Robert ‘Showboat’ Hall dies

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
NC State wins Bitcoin Bowl to cap turnaround year

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

This date in sports history for Saturday, Dec. 27, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
Weather for Saturday, Dec. 27, 2014

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B11

 
.

Business

In 2014, US economy began shaky, finished strong

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
Holiday deliveries improve but hiccups continue

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

Missouri 1st to see average gas price below $2

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

 
.

Obituaries

Frances Cruz Pangelinan

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
John Benjamin Calvin Adams

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

.

Comics

Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
B.C.

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Wizard of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Crossword

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Cryptoquote

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Bridge

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
.

Home Seller 12/27/14

Real estate transactions for Dec. 27, 2014

By Daily Republic | From Page: HSR2

Average US 30-year mortgage edges up slightly

By The Associated Press | From Page: HSR2