By Andrew Earles, 287 pgs.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I am a big fan of band biographies. I guess it comes with being an encyclopedic nerd about stuff that I like. The only thing better than getting to read a book about one of my favorite bands is to read one about a band that I love that I don’t already know the whole story. Hüsker Dü definitely fits that bill.
Sure, I know the basic story. Band starts in Minnesota in the late ‘70s, has an amazing work ethic in songwriting and touring, resulting in being signed to SST. They continue to record and tour like crazy, get signed to a major label, but by the end of the ‘80s have dissolved and have been feuding bitterly ever since.... That’s pretty much it, right?
Wrong. There is so much more to the Hüsker Dü story and Andrew Earles digs deep to get it. Right off the bat, I found that I really enjoyed his writing style. His approach to the band bio format is refreshing. The story moves along quickly, speaking with many key players in the band’s history. Both Grant Hart and Greg Norton participated, but Bob Mould declined, due to his own pending autobiography. Although Earles does his best to represent Mould through past interviews and statements, the book can’t help but lean to the Hart point of view. Perhaps when Mould’s book comes along, it will even the story out as a companion piece.
The story is engaging on its own, but I felt a bit distracted when it veered off into the story of Reflex Records. I understand that starting their own label was a very important part of their (and American punk rock) history, but it really breaks the stride of the band’s story about a third of the way through the book.
Really, it’s a small price to pay, to learn so much about such an important, yet overlooked, band. One can only hope that one day everyone involved can solve their differences and get those classic releases remixed and mastered the way they should be. Pick this up and get a great read. –Ty Stranglehold (Voyageur Press)