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Mould, Bob

Bob Mould

Singer, songwriter, guitarist

Set Land Speed Records With Hüsker Dü

Stardom and Self-Destruction

Worked to Exorcise Demons of Spirit

Reopened Umbrella of Trío

Selected discography

Sources

An artist renowned for intensely introspective lyrics and explosively loud guitar playing, Bob Mould has quietly established himself as an icon of the alternative rock movement whose body of work continues to inspire countless other bands. As a cofounding member of the thrash band Hüsker Du for much of the 1980s, Mould blazed a sonic trail that volume-obsessed young guitarists still follow.

Along with underground colleagues the Replacements and R.E.M., Hüsker Dü helped to lead the rebirth of American guitar rock in the early 1980s. All three bands enjoyed tremendous popularity with the college radio crowd in the mid-1980s, but unlike R.E.M., which rode its college popularity crest to commercial success in the latter half of the decade, Hüsker Dü self-destructed in 1988, with the Replacements doing the same a couple years later. After the breakup Mould went solo, releasing two albums, 1989s reflective Workbook, and 1990s searing Black Sheets of Rain. In 1992, Mould returned to the security of a band, debuting his new group, Sugar, on the LP Copper Blue.

Mould was born in Malone, New York, a farming community near Lake Placid. His parents ran a mom-and-pop grocery store, where he worked, learning the value of a dollar and developing the business skills that would later enable him to take over his own management duties. In a 1989 promotional interview with Virgin Records, Mould said he learned to love music at an early age, thanks largely to his fathers extensive collection of old jukebox singles, and used to memorize record labels like other kids memorized baseball card statistics. Though Mould didnt learn the guitar till the age of sixteen, hed begun writing songs when he was nine. I even had a name for my publishing company, he said. But I forget what it was.

Set Land Speed Records With Hüsker Dü

Mould attended college in St. Paul, Minnesota. Still musically inclined, he became enamored with the early punk sounds of the Patti Smith Group, the Ramones, the New York Dolls, and, particularly, the Buzzcocks. He teamed up with another Buzzcocks fan, drummer Grant Hart, and bassist Greg Norton to form Hüsker Dü in 1979. The band quickly gained local attention in Minneapolis as one of the towns loudest, fastest underground bands.

Land Speed Record, Hüsker Dü 1981 debut on the independent label SST Records, captured the bands raw power and sheer velocity in 17 songs in 26 minutes. Many speed metal/thrash bands were Hüsker Dü contemporaries in the early 1980s, and still more arrived

For the Record

Born in 1961 in Malone, NY; parents operated a grocery store. Education: Attended college in St. Paul, MN.

Co-founding member of Hüsker Dü, with Grant Hart (drums) and Greg Norton (bass), 1979; group released debut album, Land Speed Record, SST, 1981; disbanded, 1988; signed with Virgin Records and released solo album Workbook, 1989; formed Sugar with David Barbe (bass) and Malcolm Travis (drums) and released Copper Blue, Rykodisc, 1992.

Addresses: Record company Rykodisc, Pickering Wharf, Bldg. C, Salem, MA 01970.

closely on the trios heels, but few had material to match the emotional wallop of Hüsker Düs work. Neither Mould nor Hart, the bands principal songwriters, attested David Fricke in Rolling Stone, settled for cheap punk sentiment: f--- the cops, society sucks. Instead, they wrote narratives and meditations on real life and real love, little pleasures and daily pain.

The bands creative peak came with 1984s concept album Zen Arcade. The album picked hardcore punk up out of its monotonous rut and drop-kicked it into the future, said Rolling Stone. Structurally, Zen Arcade is defiantly anti-punka double album with an operatic narrative and unorthodox segments of acoustic folk, backward tape effects and psychedelicized guitar a la the Beatles White Album.

Recorded in 85 hours at a total cost of $4,000, the album tells the story of a teenaged computer hacker from a broken home who dreams about suicide after his girlfriends fatal overdose. Instead, he ends up institutionalized and later meets the head of a computer firm who hires him to design video games. Mould told Rolling Stone that the story contained some autobiographical elements. Some of us are from broken homes, some of us have had friends die, he said. I dont think thats anything new.

Stardom and Self-Destruction

After two SST follow-ups, New Day Rising and Flip Your Wig, Hüsker Dü signed with Warner Bros. Records and released its major-label debut in 1986, Candy Apple Grey, a painstaking look at life through the eyes of a number of troubled characters. The Wilson Library Bulletin described the LP as depicting the typical emotional trajectory of the average, anonymous, moody adolescent as a series of jangled screeches on the electric guitar, telling of characters balanced on a seesaw of elation and despair, with elation being, more precisely, just the absence of despair. Moulds contributions to the album included a pair of quiet but gut-wrenching songs, Hardly Getting Over It and Too Far Down.

By the time Hüsker Dü hit the road to support its 1987 follow-up, Warehouse: Songs and Stories, traditional rock and roll demons, drug use and musical dissension, were beginning to take their toll. On the eve of the U.S. tour, the bands manager, David Savoy, committed suicide. Subsequent shows on the tour proved erratic. Harts purported heroin use was wreaking havoc within the band and Mould felt increasingly constrained by Hüsker Düs thunderous sound, which he characterized as claustrophobic. On January 25, 1988, Fricke wrote in Rolling Stone, Hüsker Düthe Minneapolis trio of punk idealists whose transformation of standard-issue thrash into a 3-D roar of power and eloquence brought them unprecedented mainstream recognitionbroke up.

Telling Norton and Hart he was leaving Hüsker Dü, Mould related to one reporter, was the hardest thing I ever had to do. I will remember that day for the rest of my life. The band was like a train speeding uphill and downhill, and nobody could get near it or theyd get run over. Certain people would try to be the conductor and certain people would pull the brakes. And nobody could get on or off. When it finally hit down in that valley and slowed down, Bob jumped off. Bob got off the train . . . and its the best thing I ever did.

Mould has said he left Hüsker Dü for the safety and sanity of all involved, but expressed no regrets about being a part of the groundbreaking outfit. Some hateful stuff went on, some wonderful stuff went on, he said in 1989. But its over and all that remains are the records. For me personally, its time to let the music do the talking. And thats what this record is all about, he said of his first solo effort, Workbook, an introspective masterpiece that he used as a vehicle to purge his spirit of Hüsker Düs emotional baggage.

Worked to Exorcise Demons of Spirit

After spending much of 1988 cloistered away on his farm in Minnesota, Mould emerged with a crop of songs that marked a pleasant departure from the roar of Hüsker Dü. His trademark intensity still intact, Mould transferred his rage and self-doubt to the acoustic guitar, which laid a warm foundation for most of Workbook, accompanied by a rich instrumental mix. Some cuts, like the bouncy pop tune See a Little Light and the Hüsker-like power cut Whichever Way the Wind Blows, prove exceptions, but for the most part Workbook documents in an intensely personal fashion the perils of Moulds transition from a kid in a garage band to a man setting out on his own against the worlds harsh realities. Stereo Review said the album contained songs to exorcise poisonous feelings along with songs of cautious celebration and reawakening. Rolling Stone declared that Workbook produced a genuine feeling of catharsis... by Moulds one-two punch of confessional honesty and guitar euphoria.

Workbook marked a musical change for Mould right from the opening chords of the lilting instrumental Sunspots. The album features acoustic guitars, electric guitars at relatively sensible volumes, a cello, and a fighting chance to hear what Bob Moulds voice sounds likestrong, full, agile, with a hard cutting edge, described Newsweek.

Mould toured to support the album with Pere Ubu bassist Tony Maimone and Golden Palominos drummer Anton Fier. The three reformed in the studio in 1990 to record Moulds second solo outing, Black Sheets of Rain, a hard-driving companion to its softer predecessor. Back in a rock trio format, Mould vented his frustration at economic and environmental threats to mans well-being.

The guitar-heavy and feedback-laden album contains none of Workbooks pensive acoustic eloquence or diligent guitar orchestration, said Rolling Stone. Black Sheets of Rain is nothing more, or less, than a long, loud howl of painblinding anger, unremitting loveache, debilitating lonelinessbroadcast from power trio hell... this is the kind of high-volume torment and emotional open-heart surgery that hurts so good.

Making the album and doing the subsequent tour allowed Mould to be in control and run the musical show as he saw fita role that in the end he didnt relish. With those guys the lines were definitely drawn, Mould told Pulse!, mostly by themThis is your thing, were hired guns, lets keep it that way. I wanted to give it a band name ... do things with it as a band.

Reopened Umbrella of Trío

In 1992 Mould recruited bassist David Barbe of the Georgia-based band Mercyland, and drummer Malcolm Travis from the Boston group Zulus. Together they formed Sugar, a power trio that rivaled the intensity and drive of the best alternative bands. The release of Sugars debut album, Copper Blue, met with tremendous critical acclaim. The album was an electrifying fusion of melody and noise, resulting in a newer, more confident, accessible sound that still echoed with Moulds dark and brooding cynicism.

Reviewers were lavish in their praise of Copper Blue. Spin called the album effective proof of Moulds continuing vitality, and Rolling Stone proclaimed it to be as thundering as it is tuneful. Even mainstream People declared it altogether satisfying. For weeks Copper Blue dominated the charts on college and alternative radio stations across the country, edging out more established artists like Sonic Youth, Suzanne Vega, Morrissey, and the Ramones. It was voted album of the year by the New Musical Express and was on the Top Ten list of every significant music publication, including Billboard.

The trios second release, Beaster, was conceived as a theme albuma bizarre, biblical epic about martyrs and traitors. Despite public anticipation and heavy promotion by Rykodisc, the album sold poorly. A few reviewers found it to their liking, but most agreed it was a disappointing follow-up to its predecessor. Critics in general gave Beaster the cold shoulder, dismissing it as unfocused and relentlessly chaotic. Even Mould didnt want to discuss it, explaining to Details magazine, I dont want to ruin it for myself. The record still really upsets me when I hear it, and I like that.

Future plans for Sugar include a 1993 summer tour of Japan, though Mould, increasingly plagued by what he considers to be work-related ailments, expressed doubts about lasting the season. My voice is virtually gone, he confessed to New Musical Express, Ive had polyps and nodules in my throat for years and now theyre constantly aggravated. My ears are going. Arthritis runs in my family and. . . I feel Im getting it in all of my joints from the way I play. I dont know how [much longer] Ill be able to play on the road.

Though hes assaulted them with sonic pyrotechnics and snarled his throat-maiming vocals at them regularly over the years, Mould has developed an honest rapport with his fans. He speaks wistfully of having an audience thats grown with him. We may have met people in 1981 when they were one of eight people who came to see us, and now we see them and theyre a foot taller and pre-law or pre-med, where before they were on skateboards smashing windows or something, Mould told Down Beat in 1987. I like that; its really cool. In some degree you can almost see the changes in yourself through other people.

The honesty of his live performances draws his audience closer to him, he believes. When hes in a bad mood, he told Musician, his performance may reflect that. People seem to have very rigid lives, sitting in front of computers. I would hope that people abandon that shit when they come see me. Check it at the door. Bring your soul with you. Thats the cool thing about live musicIve got you now, and its not necessarily going to be entertaining. Its going to change again, get away from visuals, and there are going to be a lot of casualties.

Selected discography

With Hüsker Dü

Land Speed Record, SST, 1981.

Metal Circus, SST, 1982.

Zen Arcade, SST, 1984.

New Day Rising, SST, 1985.

Flip Your Wig, SST. 1985.

Candy Apple Grey, Warner Bros., 1986.

Warehouse: Songs and Stories, Warner Bros., 1987.

Solo releases

Workbook, Virgin, 1989.

Black Sheets of Rain, Virgin, 1990.

(Contributor) No Alternative, Arista, 1993.

With Sugar

Copper Blue, Rykodisc, 1992.

Beaster, Rykodisc, 1993.

(Contributors) Born to Choose, Rykodisc, 1993.

Sources

Down Beat, April 1987.

Entertainment Weekly, September 4, 1992; June 6, 1993.

Guitar Player, October 1992.

High Fidelity, August 1986.

Musician, February 1992; October 1992.

Newsweek, June 19, 1989.

Pulse!, October 1992.

Reflex, Issue 29.

Rolling Stone, May 18, 1989; June 15, 1989; November 16, 1989; December 14, 1989; September 20, 1990; August 20, 1992; October 29, 1992; January 7, 1993.

Spin, May 1992; November 1992.

Stereo Review, September 1989; November 1990.

Wilson Library Bulletin, October 1986.

Additional information for this profile was obtained from a Virgin Records promotional interview, 1989, and Rykodisc press materials, 1993.

John Cortez

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Mould, Bob

Bob Mould

Singer, songwriter, guitarist

An artist renowned for his intensely introspective lyrics and explosively loud guitar playing, Bob Mould has established himself as an icon of the alternative rock movement whose body of work continues to inspire countless other bands. As a cofounding member of the thrash band Hüsker Dü for much of the 1980s, Mould blazed a sonic trail that volume-obsessed young guitarists still follow.

Along with underground colleagues the Replacements and R.E.M., Hüsker Dü helped to lead the rebirth of American guitar rock in the early 1980s. All three bands enjoyed tremendous popularity with the college radio crowd in the mid-1980s, but unlike R.E.M., which rode its college popularity crest to commercial success in the latter half of the decade, Hüsker Dü self-destructed in 1988, with the Replacements doing the same a couple of years later. After the breakup Mould went solo, releasing two albums, 1989's reflective Workbook, and 1990's searing Black Sheets of Rain. In 1992 Mould returned to the security of a band, debuting his new group, Sugar, on the LP Copper Blue.

Mould was born in Malone, New York, a farming community near Lake Placid. His parents ran a mom-and-pop grocery store, where he worked, learning the value of a dollar and developing the business skills that would later enable him to take over his own management duties. In a 1989 promotional interview with Virgin Records, Mould said he learned to love music at an early age, thanks largely to his father's extensive collection of old jukebox singles, and he memorized record labels like other kids memorized baseball card statistics. Though Mould didn't learn the guitar till the age of 16, he'd begun writing songs when he was nine. "I even had a name for my publishing company," he said. "But I forget what it was."

Mould attended college in St. Paul, Minnesota. Still musically inclined, he became enamored with the early punk sounds of the Patti Smith Group, the Ramones, the New York Dolls, and especially the Buzzcocks. He teamed up with another Buzzcocks fan, drummer Grant Hart, and bassist Greg Norton, to form Hüsker Dü in 1979. The band quickly gained local attention in Minneapolis as one of the town's loudest, fastest underground bands.

A Powerful Debut

Land Speed Record, Hüsker Dü's 1981 debut on the independent label SST Records, captured the band's raw power and sheer velocity in 17 songs in 26 minutes. Many speed metal/thrash bands were Hüsker Dü contemporaries in the early 1980s, and still more arrived closely on the trio's heels, but few had material to match the emotional wallop of Hüsker Dü's work. "Neither Mould nor Hart, the band's principal songwriters," wrote David Fricke in Rolling Stone, "settled for cheap punk sentiment…. Instead, they wrote narratives and meditations on real life and real love, little pleasures and daily pain."

The band's creative peak came with the 1984 concept album Zen Arcade. The album "picked hardcore punk up out of its monotonous rut and drop-kicked it into the future," said Rolling Stone, adding that "structurally, Zen Arcade is defiantly anti-punk—a double album with an operatic narrative and unorthodox segments of acoustic folk, backward tape effects and psychedelicized guitar a la the Beatles' White Album."

After two SST follow-ups, New Day Rising and Flip Your Wig, Hüsker Dü signed with Warner Bros. Records and released its major label debut in 1986, Candy Apple Grey. The Wilson Library Bulletin described the LP as "depicting the typical emotional trajectory of the average, anonymous, moody adolescent as a series of jangled screeches on the electric guitar," telling of characters "balanced on a seesaw of elation and despair, with elation being, more precisely, just the absence of despair." Mould's contributions to the album included a pair of quiet but gut-wrenching songs, "Hardly Getting Over It" and "Too Far Down."

Hüsker Dü Broke Up

By the time Hüsker Dü hit the road to support its 1987 follow-up, Warehouse: Songs and Stories, the traditional rock and roll demons of drug use and musical dissension were beginning to take their toll. On the eve of the U.S. tour, the band's manager, David Savoy, committed suicide. Subsequent shows on the tour proved erratic. Hart's purported heroin use was wreaking havoc within the band, and Mould felt increasingly constrained by Hüsker Dü's thunderous sound, which he characterized as claustrophobic. On January 25, 1988, the group broke up. As reported by Fricke in Rolling Stone, "Hüsker Dü—the Minneapolis trio of punk idealists whose transformation of standard-issue thrash into a 3-D roar of power and eloquence brought them unprecedented mainstream recognition—broke up."

Mould has said he left Hüsker Dü for the safety and sanity of all involved, but expressed no regrets about being a part of the groundbreaking outfit. "Some hateful stuff went on, some wonderful stuff went on," he recalled to Rolling Stone. "But it's over and all that remains are the records. For me personally, it's time to let the music do the talking. And that's what this record is all about," he said of his first solo effort, Workbook, an introspective masterpiece that he used as a vehicle to purge his spirit of Hüsker Dü's emotional baggage.

Released Confessional Workbook

After spending much of 1988 cloistered away on his farm in Minnesota, Mould emerged with a crop of songs that marked a pleasant departure from the roar of Hüsker Dü. His trademark intensity still intact, Mould transferred his rage and self-doubt to the acoustic guitar, which laid a foundation for most of Workbook, accompanied by a rich instrumental mix. Workbook documented the perils of Mould's transition from a kid in a garage band to a man setting out on his own against the world's harsh realities. Rolling Stone declared that Workbook produced "a genuine feeling of catharsis … by Mould's one-two punch of confessional honesty and guitar euphoria."

Workbook marked a musical change for Mould. "The album features acoustic guitars, electric guitars at relatively sensible volumes, a cello, and a fighting chance to hear what Bob Mould's voice sounds like—strong, full, agile, with a hard cutting edge," described Newsweek.

Mould toured to support the album with Pere Ubu bassist Tony Maimone and Golden Palominos drummer Anton Fier. The three re-formed in the studio in 1990 to record Mould's second solo outing, Black Sheets of Rain, a hard-driving companion to its softer predecessor. The guitar-heavy and feedback-laden album "contains none of Workbook's pensive acoustic eloquence or diligent guitar orchestration," said Rolling Stone. "This is the kind of high-volume torment and emotional open-heart surgery that hurts so good."

Formed Power Trio Sugar

In 1992 Mould recruited bassist David Barbe of the Georgia-based band Mercyland, and drummer Malcolm Travis from the Boston group Zulus. Together they formed Sugar, a power trio that rivaled the intensity and drive of the best alternative bands. The release of Sugar's debut album, Copper Blue, met with tremendous critical acclaim. The album was an electrifying fusion of melody and noise, resulting in a newer, more confident, accessible sound that still echoed with Mould's dark and brooding cynicism.

Reviewers were lavish in their praise of Copper Blue. Spin called the album "effective proof of Mould's continuing vitality," and Rolling Stone proclaimed it to be "as thundering as it is tuneful." Even mainstream People declared it "altogether satisfying." For weeks Copper Blue dominated the charts on college and alternative radio stations across the country, edging out more established artists like Sonic Youth, Suzanne Vega, Morrissey, and the Ramones. It was voted album of the year by the New Musical Express and turned up on the top ten list of every significant music publication, including Billboard.

For the Record …

Born in 1961 in Malone, NY; parents operated a grocery store. Education: Attended college in St. Paul, MN.

Co-founding member of Hüsker Dü, with Grant Hart (drums) and Greg Norton (bass), 1979; group released debut album, Land Speed Record, SST, 1981; disbanded, 1988; signed with Virgin Records and released solo album Workbook, 1989; formed Sugar with David Barbe (bass) and Malcolm Travis (drums) and released Copper Blue, Rykodisc, 1992; released File Under: Easy Listening with Sugar, 1994; disbanded Sugar, 1995; issued Bob Mould, 1996, and The Last Dog and Pony Show, 1998; released Live Dog 98: The Forum, London UK and Modulate, 2002; signed to Yep Roc and released Body of Song, 2005.

Addresses: Record company—Yep Roc Records, P.O. Box 4821, Chapel Hill, NC 27515-4821, website: http://www.yeproc.com. Website—Bob Mould Official Website: http://www.bobmould.com.

The trio's second release, Beaster, was conceived as a theme album—a bizarre, biblical epic about martyrs and traitors. Despite public anticipation and heavy promotion by Rykodisc, the album sold poorly. A few reviewers found it to their liking, but most agreed it was a disappointing follow-up to its predecessor. Critics in general gave Beaster the cold shoulder, dismissing it as unfocused and relentlessly chaotic.

Though he has assaulted them with sonic pyrotechnics and snarled his throat-maiming vocals at them regularly over the years, Mould has developed an honest rapport with his fans. He believes that the honesty of his live performances draws his audience closer to him. When he's in a bad mood, he told Musician, his performance may reflect that. "That's the cool thing about live music—I've got you now, and it's not necessarily going to be entertaining."

Mould remained committed to Sugar in 1993–94, writing material for a second album and starting recording sessions in the spring of 1994. He was dissatisfied with the results, however, and erased the tapes. The band returned to the studio once again in late spring, and released File Under: Easy Listening in the fall. The album received a warm critical reception, but by the beginning of 1995, Sugar had disbanded. In the spring of 1996 Mould released his third solo album, a self-titled effort recorded on a four-track recorder. "Mould sounds revitalized throughout the album," wrote Stephen Thomas Erlewine in All Music Guide.

Mould followed with The Last Dog and Pony Show in 1998, and announced that the supporting tour would be his last with a full electric band. Mould later released Live Dog 98: The Forum, London UK, an album documenting the tour. Four years elapsed before Mould followed with Modulate in 2002, an album of electronic and dance music. "I keep trying to find different ways to say the same things," Mould told Chris Morris in Billboard. "I think that's what my life is destined to be." Critics, however, were baffled by his change in direction, and gave the album a lukewarm reception. In 2005, however, Mould returned to critical favor with Body of Song, an album that revisited vigorous, full-band rock.

In the mid-1990s, Mould began expressing reservations about the rock-n-roll lifestyle. "As you get older, you need your independence," he told Evan Smith in Texas Monthly. "You need to be focused on your own life." He also struggled when the music press revealed in the mid-1990s that he was a homosexual. "I never denied it, but was never asked about it until around 1994 when the music press was making a lot more of an issue of it," he told Jonathan Padget in Metro Weekly. "It wasn't perhaps the most graceful coming out. But I felt much better when I did." Although Mould would become involved as an activist for gay rights and even write scripts for the World Federation of Wrestling, he remained committed to his music. "As I get older, it gets very simple," he told Padget. "This is my life's work. I don't have anything else I do, really. I've been fortunate to be pretty good at what I do, and I work real hard, and people seem to appreciate it. That's what leads to the 'icon' status."

Selected discography

Solo albums

Workbook, Virgin, 1989
Black Sheets of Rain, Virgin, 1990.
Poison Years, Virgin, 1994.
Bob Mould, Rykodisc, 1996.
The Last Dog and Pony Show, Rykodisc, 1998.
Live Dog 98: The Forum, London UK, Granary Music, 2002.
Modulate, Granary Music, 2002.
Body of Song, Yep Rock, 2005.

With Hüsker Dü

Land Speed Record, SST, 1981.
Metal Circus, SST, 1982.
Zen Arcade, SST, 1984.
New Day Rising, SST, 1985.
Flip Your Wig, SST, 1985.
Candy Apple Grey, Warner Bros., 1986.
Warehouse: Songs and Stories, Warner Bros., 1987.
Everything Falls Apart and More, Rhino, 1993.

With Sugar

Copper Blue, Rykodisc, 1992.
Beaster, Rykodisc, 1993.
File Under: Easy Listening, Rykodisc, 1994.
Besides, Rykodisc, 1995.

Sources

Periodicals

Billboard, March 9, 2002.

Down Beat, April 1987.

Entertainment Weekly, September 4, 1992; June 6, 1993.

Guitar Player, October 1992.

High Fidelity, August 1986.

Musician, February 1992; October 1992.

Magnet, July-August 2005.

Newsweek, June 19, 1989.

Pulse!, October 1992.

Rolling Stone, May 18, 1989; June 15, 1989; November 16, 1989; December 14, 1989; September 20, 1990; August 20, 1992; October 29, 1992; January 7, 1993.

Spin, May 1992; November 1992.

Stereo Review, September 1989; November 1990.

Texas Monthly, October 1994.

Wilson Library Bulletin, October 1986.

Online

"Bob Mould," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com/ (September 10, 2005).

"Bob Mould," Metro Weekly, http://www.metroweekly.com/ (September 10, 2005).

Additional information for this profile was obtained from a Virgin Records promotional interview, 1989, and Rykodisc press materials, 1993.

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"Mould, Bob." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. 23 Jul. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Hüsker Dü

Hüsker Dü



Rock group



Pioneering 1980s pop-punk trio Hüsker Dü arguably opened the door for the wave of modern alternative rock that changed the music industry in the 1990s. The songwriting partnership of drummer Grant Hart and frontman Bob Mould gave Hüsker Dü it's singular sound, but was also the source of bitter resentments that ultimately ruined the group.


Hüsker Dü was formed in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1979. The trio's name, which means "do you remember," came from a 1950's Scandinavian board game. Bob Mould was a student at Minneapolis' Malacaster College, and worked at a local record store at the time. It was there store that he met drummer, songwriter, and vocalist Grant Hart and bassist Greg Norton. The three had many conflicting opinions about music, but were united in their love of punk rock. They began playing aggressive hard-core thrash punk, but the group's sound soon became a showcase for a variety of diverse influences. Hart and Mould complemented each other perfectly in their songwriting partnership.

By 1980 Hüsker Dü had developed a strong local following, playing in Minneapolis clubs. They became so popular in their hometown, in fact, that Rolling Stone credits the group with influencing several other Minneapolis bands, including the Replacements and Soul Asylum. The group released their first single, "Statues," on the independent Minneapolis Reflex record label in January of 1981. Their debut album, Land Speed Record, a live recording that boasted 17 songs (but clocked in at just 26 minutes) followed that summer on the New Alliance label. In 1982 they released an EP called In a Free Land.


The group embarked on a relentless touring and recording schedule that would characterize their career together. Traveling in a small van, they visited virtually every college town and major city in the United States over the next several years. They played underground clubs and often recorded tracks in the van, since they lacked access to a recording studio while they were on the road.


Hüsker Dü returned to Reflex to release their first studio album Everything Falls Apart in 1982. By this time, the group had moved into the ranks of such then-underground groups as the Minutemen, R.E.M., Black Flag, the Meat Puppets, and the Replacements. Their smart and fast pop-punk songs were played on college radio stations across the United States. They became the darlings of music critics both in the United States and abroad. They released the Metal Circus EP in 1983.


SST Records, a larger independent label, released Hüsker Dü's 1984 album, Zen Arcade. The double albumwhich told the story of a young boy setting out on his ownwas praised by both fans and critics. "Zen Arcade is probably the closest hardcore will ever get to an opera," said Rolling Stone critic David Fricke. "Hüsker Dü is as hard and fast as they come." Fricke listed the album's standouts as "Never Talking to You Again," "Pink Turns to Blue," "Hare Krsna," "Recurring Dreams," "Something I Learned Today," and "Beyond the Threshold," and declared the release a "landmark." Toward the end of 1984 Hüsker Dü recorded a cover of the Byrds' song "Eight Miles High" and released it only as a single.

The fast and furious touring and recording schedule of 1984 and 1985 began to take its toll on the band. As Mould and Hart wrestled with drug and alcohol addictions, their songwriting partnership had devolved into bitter competition. These struggles did nothing to slow the group down, however. They released two albums, New Day Rising and Flip Your Wig, in 1985.


Both albums were again well received by fans and critics, but Flip Your Wig, boasted a couple of tracks, "Makes No Sense at All" and "Games," that had airplay potential, according to Rolling Stone critic Rob Tannenbaum. "To many, the [result] is purposeless noise, but the message is apparentif you can sing about heartbreak or confusion on key, you can't be too upset. And the Hüskers are always upset." The tension between Mould and Hart may have been tearing the group apart, but their music was strong in spite of it.


The members of Hüsker Dü were at their lowest point personally just as their professional career as a band really took off. They were among the first underground punk-influenced groups signed to a major record label when they finalized a contract with Warner Bros. in 1986. The resulting release, Candy Apple Grey, was a breakthrough for Hüsker Dü. Although the group's sole purpose when they began playing together, according to Rolling Stone critic Tim Holmes, was to be "the loudest, tightest, fastest band in the world," Candy Apple Grey displayed a more refined sound, "an overpowering, hypnotic effect that straddles the boundary between consonance and dissonance reveal[ing] the subliminal hooks, melodies, choruses, and surprisingly conventional structures supporting the towering edifice." Candy Apple Grey was not a sell-out, Holmes concluded. Instead, "[w]e should be grateful that this band wound up playing in the majors."

For the Record . . .

Members include Grant Hart , drums, vocals; Bob Mould (born on October 16, 1960, in Malone, NY), vocals, guitar; Greg Norton , bass.


Group formed in Minneapolis, MN, 1979; released first single, "Statues," on Reflex record label, and released live debut album, Land Speed Record, 1981; released EP In a Free Land, on New Alliance Records, 1982; began touring United States and released first studio album, Everything Falls Apart, on Reflex, 1982; signed with SST Records and released double album Zen Arcade, 1984; toured and recorded constantly, 1984-85; released New Day Rising and Flip Your Wig, 1985; became first independent post-punk band to sign with a major label, Warner Bros., 1985; released Candy Apple Grey, 1986; followed by double album, Warehouse, 1987; disbanded, 1988.


As Hüsker Dü's profile rose, so did their personal troubles, but the band played on. Mould and Hart were locked in a power struggle even as they turned out their second double album in three years, 1987's Warehouse: Songs and Stories. The 20-song effort, said Fricke in Rolling Stone, was "a breathtaking canvas of rainbow slam pop and lyric liberation that eclipses nearly everything in '80s post-punk rock, here or abroad." The album, Fricke continued, "is teeming with life. These are songs about real people in tough situations, scored with white-noise fury, dynamite choruses, and quite a bit of humor, however black." He even considered it "a viable candidate for album of the year."

If Fricke was right about Warehouse, the album was a good indication of what was happening within the band. Hüsker Dü was roiling with tough situations, white-noise fury, and black humor. The trio was preparing to embark on a tour in support of Warehouse when their manager, David Savor, committed suicide. Despite the tragic blow, the group completed the tour, but did not survive for long. Hart sank deeper into alcoholism and drug abuse, and although Mould cleaned up his act, Hart was fired in December of 1988, essentially dissolving the group.

Both Hart and Mould launched solo careers after Hüsker Dü's demise. Mould founded the group Sugar in 1992, but they lasted only three years before tensions split them apart in 1995; Mould, like Hart, performed thereafter as a solo artist. Norton left music entirely, and became a chef in Minneapolis.


Selected discography

Land Speed Record, New Alliance, 1981.

In a Free Land (EP), New Alliance, 1982.

Everything Falls Apart, Reflex, 1982.

Metal Circus (EP), SST, 1983.

Zen Arcade, SST, 1984.

New Day Rising, SST, 1985.

Candy Apple Grey, Warner Bros., 1986.

Warehouse: Songs & Stories, Warner Bros., 1987.

The Living End, Warner Bros., 1994.



Sources

Books


Graff, Gary, editor, MusicHound Rock: The Essential Album Guide, Visible Ink, 1999.


Online


"Bob Mould: Biography," Granary Music, http://www.granarymusic.com/biography/bobmould.htm (September 22, 2003).

"Hüsker Dü," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (September 22, 2003).

"Hüsker Dü," Granary Music, http://www.granarymusic.com/biography/huskerdu.htm (September 22, 2003).

"Hüsker Dü," RollingStone.com, http://www.rollingstone.com/huskerdu (September 22, 2003).


Brenna Sanchez

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