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Hüsker Dü

Husker Du

Fact Sheet

Musical genre:Punk, Rock  
Hüsker Dü was an influential punk rock trio during the 1980s. The name (without the umlauts) means "Do you remember" in Danish/Norwegian, and comes from the memory-matching Swedish board game Husker Du? of the 1950s.

The group was formed in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1978, when guitarist Bob Mould, bassist Greg Norton, and drummer Grant Hart met in the independent record store where Hart worked. All fans of hardcore punk, they decided to form a band and were soon gigging at local venues. They made for a striking trio on stage, as Mould's hulking yet doughy looks contrasted with the long-haired and sultry Hart. Most unconventional was Norton, who sported an inexplicable handlebar mustache 4 inches long.

Hüsker Dü's music and lyrics broke with the disdainful and anti-intellectual tradition of earlier punk bands. Although they used the idioms of hardcore punk, including lightning-speed guitar and screamed lyrics, the music itself has a complexity not found in other punk of the era, and shows an influence of folk and other genres. The lyrics made astute if sharp personal and social commentary, and exposed personal vulnerability and sympathy for their subject matter. A particular strength of the group was the two powerhouse singer/songwriters, Mould and Hart. The tension between their musical styles, and their willingness to collaborate, made the sum of their contributions greater than their parts.

The band started releasing singles on Terry Katzman's Reflex Records in 1981. Their first two albums, Land Speed Record and Everything Falls Apart (the latter being their first studio album), attracted much critical praise. Their determined touring brought them to the attention of the Minutemen, who released their debut and the In A Free Land single on their label, New Alliance Records. This in turn lead to the band signing to Greg Ginn's seminal SST Records.

The Metal Circus mini-album was released in 1983, but Hüsker Dü's crowning achievement was to come the following year. "Zen Arcade", a double album, is a concept piece following a boy who leaves home to face a harsh and unforgiving world. Its artistic and conceptual basis, anathema to earlier punk and reflecting progressive rock values, was in fact its strongest point. Followups New Day Rising and Flip Your Wig continued musical exploration. Although by this time the band had an international appeal, they continued to play in and support the local Twin Cities music scene. In a nod to the band's Minnesota roots, 1985's EP Love is All Around featured the theme song to the Mary Tyler Moore Show, set in Minneapolis.

In 1986 the band signed to Warner Brothers Records. Their two albums on Warner Brothers, Candy Apple Grey and Warehouse: Songs and Stories (a double album), show the band as more mature psychologically and musically. By this point, however, the tension between Mould and Hart had become personal, and drug problems were hurting the band. By 1988 they were no longer able to work together; Hart was ejected from the band, which promptly collapsed.

Mould and Hart have continued making music, albeit separately; this work has included solo albums and forming the successful alternative bands, Sugar and Nova Mob, respectively. Norton became a cook.

Hüsker Dü's most lasting legacy was in bridging the gap between 70s and early 80s punk rock and later alternative rock bands. Many later musicians cite Hüsker Dü as an influence on their own work.