Grant Hart has died aged 56. Drummer, singer and songwriter with Hüsker Dü, he then put out several albums as a solo artist and with his band Nova Mob.
Hüsker Dü had two – sometimes three – songwriters, and in Grant and Bob Mould they had two of the best; my favourite songs are split pretty evenly between the two of them. The band had more of a range style-wise than is sometimes thought, but there’s no denying that some of the most quintessentially Hüsker songs were Grant’s, like ‘Don’t Want to Know if You are Lonely’ from Candy Apple Gray. He had a fine voice, too, and he made drumming look easy whether it was the straight-ahead hardcore stuff or the more complicated later material. He was a key part of one of the most important bands of the 80s and he will be missed.
Here’s ‘2541’, from his first solo EP. It was rerecorded for his first album Ecco Homo but I’ve always loved this version for its raw, direct sound, and it seems more suitable right now than any of his Hüsker Dü songs.
Rest in peace, Grant.
We often end up looking back on this blog. This gig was a case in point, because on this tour Bob Mould seems happy to play material not just from his solo records and Sugar, but from Hüsker Dü as well, just as he does on the excellent live DVD. I was in seventh heaven – I like the solo stuff (the most recent, District Line, is fine), but my god I love the older stuff. I can’t be certain of the setlist, but he started with ‘The Act We Act’. followed by ‘A Good Idea’. Not bad. More Sugar (‘Hoover Dam’, ‘If I Can’t Change Your Mind’), plus ‘I Hate Alternative Rock’, ‘Circles’, ‘Hanging Tree’ and more from solo albums… and then ‘New Day Rising’, ‘I Apologise’ and ‘Divide and Conquer'(!).
Then he played ‘Celebrated Summer’, probably my favourite song of all time, and it was just brilliant. At this point I turned to Al and said, jokingly, “He might as well play ‘Chartered Trips’ now”, thinking that he might draw the line at Zen Arcade’s intense shredders, but he bloody well played it. And it sounded fearsome, ending in a blur of guitars and screaming. He still does that weird running about while he’s playing, which I (still) find tremendously affecting – he obviously gets carried away with it, even after all these years.
So yes, a night for nostalgia. Some of the crowd were older than me, god bless ’em. Bob asked if anyone had been there last time, when it was the Camden Palace and Hüsker Dü played in 1985 (recorded for TV, recently out on DVD). I wasn’t there, but I was at the Electric Ballroom just up the road less than a year later. And really I know we should find new stuff, not bang on about how things are terrible now, but I don’t want to move on. My celebrated summer involved listening to that song and this music shaped a good deal of my taste, and who I am, I guess. For better or worse.
So watch, listen, and wonder, younglings. This is how it’s meant to be done.
Hüsker Dü, Camden Palace 1985: ‘New Day Rising’, ‘It’s Not Funny Anymore’. Proper Moshing:
‘I Hate Alternative Rock‘ – Bob Mould – Bob Mould
‘Chartered Trips‘ – Hüsker Dü – Zen Arcade
‘Celebrated Summer‘ live – Hüsker Dü – The Living End
Buy Bob Mould, Sugar, Hüsker Dü here.
A while ago I ordered a DVD from the US, despite the fact that I could have bought it on Amazon.uk – it somehow felt right to buy this in the old Peel era way (though not with International Money Orders, do they still exist?). It’s a show Bob Mould did in his adopted hometown of Washington DC a couple of years ago, and it’s great. This is definitely the new Bob, the happy Bob, but miraculously it hasn’t made him rubbish. The quality is excellent throughout but what’s really exciting is that so are the songs – from 1984 through to 2005. Because what you get here is seven tracks from Sugar’s Copper Blue, the same number from Bob’s last CD Body of Song, three from the various solo albums… and six Husker Du songs. While he has been playing some of this material for years, what really struck me is the fact that he’s fucking grinning throughout the gig. He looks happy, relaxed, confident and really proud of these twenty-three songs, just some of the best bits of the one of the most amazing careers in popular music. Well, in my opinion.
Even if you don’t know the earlier material but thought that Copper Blue was one of the best records of the so-called ‘grunge’ era, this is worth a look (it was, and you get most of it, after all). If you’re a fan, and are excited by the fact that Bob has recruited the brilliant Brendan Canty of Fugazi on drums, as well as Richard Morel and Jason Narducy, then what are you waiting for? I can tell you that this version of ‘Hardly Getting Over It’ is less raw than usual, and more moving than ever. Elegiac, even. And ‘Celebrated Summer’ is as electrifying as I always want it to be. There’s even a cracking version of ‘Chartered Trips’! Only the churlish would want more (OK – ‘Beyond The Threshold’ would have been nice. Only joking, Bob).
Hell, if you just wanted to know what the trademark Bob guitar-playing stance-stumble-run looks like, well, it’s here too.
Some tasters from the DVD, though they’re only YouTube quality:
Bob Mould – ‘If I Can’t Change Your Mind’
Bob Mould – ‘A Good Idea’
And a scratchy from-the-vinyl track from Workbook for luck: ‘See A Little Light‘