Thursday, September 18, 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

 
Theatre DeVille in Vacaville closes

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A1, 15 Comments | Gallery

 
Focus on school attendance now, always

By Mayrene Bates | From Page: A2, 1 Comment

 
Lunafest returns to Fairfield in November

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3

Pepperbelly’s for sale

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A3, 4 Comments

 
Jury selection begins in 2011 Fairfield murder trial

By Jess Sullivan | From Page: A3

Seniors get help at Kroc Center health fair

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A3 | Gallery

 
Drug court success stories tell their tales

By Jess Sullivan | From Page: A3 | Gallery

Suisun City Senior Center seeks holiday donations

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3

 
Weather for Sept. 18, 2014

By Daily Republic | From Page: B10

 
Fairfield police log: Sept. 16, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A10

Suisun City police log: Sept. 16, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A10

 
.

US / World

Emotions mount on final day of Scottish campaign

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
Maps provide early warning of California fire risk

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

More than 2,000 homes threatened in California fire

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4, 1 Comment

 
NASA’s Maven spacecraft reaches Mars this weekend

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

US military role in Iraq raises combat questions

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Police: Ambush suspect was military re-enactor

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

House grudgingly approves arms for Syrian rebels

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 2 Comments

 
Ex-VA doctor: Phoenix report a ‘whitewash’

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

School district police stock up free military gear

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 4 Comments | Gallery

 
Doctor says Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has cancer

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

US scientist: Ebola unlikely to become airborne

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
Liberia president praises US for Ebola help pledge

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

Obama reaffirms opposition to US combat in Iraq

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6, 1 Comment

 
AP Interview: Iraq premier says no foreign troops

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6, 1 Comment

.

Opinion

 
Give new crime report a chance

By Kelvin Wade | From Page: A7, 17 Comments

 
Homeless find welcome in Vallejo

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A7, 7 Comments

 
.

Living

Today in History: Sept. 18, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Community Calendar: Sept. 18, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

Horoscopes: Sept. 18, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: A9

 
My brother fails to make an effort to when it comes to my kids

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: A9

.

Entertainment

TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
U2 returns to iTunes Top 100 — 26 times

By Los Angeles Times | From Page: B4, 1 Comment

Directors Guild finds TV diversity hiring stalled

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

 
.

Sports

Rodriguez gets 1st MEL soccer win since return to league

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B1

 
Giants snap tie in 9th, beat Arizona to narrow gap in West to 2

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
49ers’ Kaepernick fined for inappropriate language

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1, 4 Comments | Gallery

Barry Bonds appeal heads back to court

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
NFL, union agree to new drug policy, HGH testing

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Raiders rookie Derek Carr focuses on job at hand

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

 
Pegulas’ bid to buy Bills OK’d by NFL committee

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

FSU benches Winston for 1st half of Clemson game

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Umpire West suspended 1 game for grabbing jersey

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

After making ‘mistake,’ Vikings bench RB Peterson

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Sharks sign D Braun to 5-year, $19 M extension

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Rockets acquire Jason Terry, picks from Kings

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Panthers remove DE Greg Hardy from active roster

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

.

Business

Fed signals plan to keep key rate at record low

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

 
Brown signs ride-sharing insurance legislation

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

US homebuilder confidence soars in September

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

 
Anthem, hospitals join to offer new insurance plan

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

Drag queens dress down Facebook over names

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5, 1 Comment

 
Wells Fargo pays $290,000 in sex harassment case

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

.

Obituaries

Margaret King

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

 
.

Comics

For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
B.C.

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Wizard of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Bridge

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Crossword

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Cryptoquote

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9