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Andrew Earles
HÜSKER DÜ: THE STORY OF THE NOISE-POP PIONEERS...
Voyageur Press
Format: Hardcover
Release Date: November 18, 2010
By Rob Browning May 11, 2011

Break-ups are a funny thing. When a human couple splits, there’s always the he-said/she-said gambit, but one can take small consolation in that there are but two versions of the tale. The dissolution of the average band ups that ante considerably. Tales of any ensemble are rife with revisionist history, especially if the splits are acrimonious, as is the norm. Add an excessive number of members and getting the real story can be a nightmare. Memphis writer Andrew Earles encountered an even worse eventuality with his book: the member who chooses not to participate. This could be worked around in some bands, but when your subject is Hüsker Dü and the man demuring is Bob Mould, the absence could be a death sentence for a project.

Hüsker Dü: The Story Of the Noise-Pop Pioneers Who Launched Modern Rock rose from the ashes of a rejected 33 1/3 pitch from Earles, a contributor to Magnet, Spin, and numerous other web and print publications. Undaunted, the writer posted his proposal on his website and a few months later found himself the recipient of an offer from the good folks at Voyageur Press to re-work his proposal into a full-length book. Voyageur are best known for their regional books, and claim this focus makes them distinct from other publishers. That’s easily said, but the fact that one of their recent releases was the exceptional oral history of The Replacements, All Over But the Shouting, makes it easier to accept the proposal from the self-proclaimed leading publisher on railroads and farm tractors.

Once duly commissioned, Earles approached ex-members of the seminal trio for his project and soon had bassist/singer Grant Hart and drummer Greg Norton on board. Things looked promising until co-singer/guitarist Bob Mould declined to participate for a number of reasons, one of the most paramount being the soon-to-be released autobiography he was then writing with Our Band Could Be Your Life scribe Michael Azerrad. The absence of such an important figure from the project was difficult enough, but the subsequent number of people who declined in the wake of the guitarist’s decision proved an even larger stumbling block. Earles is a regular contributor to sacred-cow slaughterhouse Chunklet, a publication whose content revolves around exploring topics like “The 100 Biggest Assholes In Rock.” The affiliation is a double-edged sword: while Chunklet is brilliant and widely accepted as such, throwing in with that lot could foster a host of misconceptions, most erroneous being that Earles is aspiring towards a station as the underground Albert Goldman with a cut-job à la Smiths biographer Johnny Rogan.

Not that it must not have been tempting. Hüsker Dü is a respectful retelling of the band’s story, but digging up the dirt and slinging some mud had to be an alluring proposition. Exclusive of having two of the best songwriters in 1980s independent music and releasing an avalanche of material eclipsing any other band of the time, Hüsker also happened to be two-thirds openly gay, sported serious drug problems, and suffered little for shortage of interpersonal drama in their eight year run. Plus, everybody really didn’t stay all that friendly afterward. All the aforementioned figures are addressed in respectful fashion and Earles does a fine job with people who did participate in Hüsker Dü. Mould is certainly conspicuous in his absence, as is SST proprietor Greg Ginn and all of the Black Flag crew, save for Bill Stevenson. The presence of Mike Watt speaks volumes (literally and figuratively), but while their participation would have fleshed out the story and perhaps offered rebuttals to various opinions herein, Hüsker Dü: The Story Of the Noise-Pop Pioneers Who Launched Modern Rock is an impressive retelling of the arc of the Twin Cities hardcore punk pioneers.

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