Post-punk pantheon

By PHOENIX STAFF  |  July 16, 2007

The walls Mascis built on You’re Living All Over Me would eventually come down around him, as first Barlow (who’d have his own impact on indie-rock with Sebadoh) and Murph departed. Even if it was a pyrrhic victory, he could at least claim he’d won the battle by driving everyone else away.
— M.A.

VIDEO: Husker Du on the Late Show with Joan Rivers

Hüsker Dü, Zen Arcade (SST, 1984)
When Hüsker Dü put out Zen Arcade in 1984, it freaked out hardcore purists and mainstream music consumers alike — it was still punk as fuck, but you could whistle to it.

The Minneapolis trio’s third record took hardcore and California label SST (Black Flag’s backers) into uncharted waters. Take “Hare Krsna”: it’s an instrumental! With tambourine! “Monday Will Never Be the Same” is a piano interlude! The band wrote an emo concept record — the story of a young runaway discovering the harsh pitfalls of the real world, which turns out to be just a dream — when Conor Oberst was still a twinkle in his father’s bespectacled eyes.

Even with bassist Greg Norton’s completely un-ironic Freddie Mercury mustache, none of the members looked like rock idols, especially frontman/singer/guitarist Bob Mould, whose regular-Joe traits immediately distinguished him from the era’s glammed-up norm. Double chin? Check. Receding hairline? Check. Social awkwardness? Um, yeah — check.

The album was originally released on vinyl as a double LP, and that’s still how it sounds best. Mould’s chorus-drenched guitars are a scream of hiss and riffs, racing Grant Hart’s drums to the finish line, the players’ dueling vocals scrapping along the way (a battle for songwriting credits would eventually undo the band, though Mould is credited individually with more than half of the tracks on Zen Arcade).

This is the record that popularized new genres like “power pop,” “pop punk,” and “alternative rock,” because it didn’t fit into any other damn categories. It made hardcore more accessible; pop, grittier and more challenging. And though it made national critics’ top rock-album lists, it never charted. It’s still not on iTunes. But you can hear Bob Mould’s voice in modern Twin Cities progeny the Hold Steady, as well as his guitar riffs in the theme to The Daily Show (which he wrote when Craig Kilborn hosted). Still, perhaps the most revealing look into Hüsker Dü’s scheme comes in a YouTube clip from a late-’80s appearance with Joan Rivers on The Late Show, when she practically calls them sellouts to their faces. “You used to be much more radical,” she says, to which Mould replies, “It’s not just screaming about how messed up the government is and how much you hate your parents anymore.”
— Tyler Gray

VIDEO: The Jesus and Mary Chain, "Just Like Honey

The Jesus and Mary Chain, Psychocandy (Warner Bros, 1985)
Introverted Scotsmen with defensive haircuts, the Jesus and Mary Chain were an exercise in paranoid nostalgia that somehow became futuristic. Reviewers of their early shows — which were generally short, feedback-wracked, and concluded by a half-assed riot — mistook the band for some sort of art statement.

But the Reid brothers (William and Jim, core of the project) were pop conservatives, with a canon of taste as firm as Joey Ramone’s: what they wanted was to crossbreed the Shangri-Las and the Sex Pistols, and then lace the result with a guitar-scream that sounded like the psychotic essence of Beatlemania.

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