Come with me, children, and listen to an aural experience like no other. This is about punk. This is about hardcore. This is about pop. It is all of these things and more. It is Hüsker Dü’s first album of 1985, New Day Rising.
Released at a time when punk had become new wave, and hardcore was becoming an ironic joke of itself, it continues where the Hüskers’ 1984 double concept album Zen Arcade left off. The sound of a hardcore band incorporating the melody, rhythms, and sensibilities they grew up on in the 60's and 70's with the fury their hard-fast-rules sound always had.
For example, exhibit A: opening song "New Day Rising." Standard issue double-time hardcore drum beat? Check. Standard issue thrashing distorted guitar? Check. Barked vocals over a bass-line that follows the guitar? Wait…we’ve got melodic sung vocals wailing “new day rising” over a pulsating bass line. Zen Arcade songs like “Something I Learned Today” and “Turn On the News” distilled into one.
It is this sound that set the stage for umpteen million alternative, power-pop, pop-punk, grunge, and indie bands that followed. The Pixies, Nirvana (note Chad Channing’s shirts), the Smoking Popes, and Pavement owe an immense debt to Hüsker Dü. You would not have “Here Comes Your Man” if not for “Terms Of Psychic Warfare.” You would not have “Sliver” without “The Girl Who Lives On Heaven Hill.”
Historical importance aside, the music is brilliant. It hits almost every rock-related genre featuring a similar platter of moods and values. The following words can be used to describe this album: rock, punk, hardcore, jazzy, bluesy, folky, melodic, powerful, fast, angry, doubtful, hopeful, depressed, happy, exhilarating, calming.
Few artists had attempted something as ambitious within a one-disc pop album and succeeded before. Few have since. Even fewer punks have past, present, or future.
The only downside to the album is the production. Cut on an 80's SST budget with Spot producing, the vocals and guitars are almost exclusively thin. The drums do not pound or attack; they’re just there. The bass? Well, if you actually like that slightly-round-with-no-attack tone, maybe you’ll love it. Listening to this album on CD makes it even worse as it is obvious not much money was spent at mastering.
But this is where it’s at. You can’t go forward without knowing the past, and this is a huge chunk of it. Even if you don’t care about that, it’s an essential listening for anyone into pop, punk, indie, or all of the above. Listen to it. Now.
New day rising.