Top '80s Songs of Husker Du

By the time Husker Du released its 1984 magnum opus, the post-hardcore speed merchant sound of the band's earliest days had transformed into an eclectic guitar rock template capable of penetrating melodies in many disparate styles. Especially over the course of five rapidly released records during the band's final three years together, Husker Du built a stunning catalog of distinct rock music for the ages. Here's a chronological look at the finest of these early alternative classics, drawn from a deep catalog full of worthy album tracks. Disagreements welcome.

Bob Mould of Husker Du.
angelo/yapsnaps/Flickr Creative Commons

Though an active touring band for nearly four years before its full-length 1983 debut of the same name was released, Husker Du revealed some interesting melodic elements on this track that broadened the potential of Bob Mould's uniquely metallic guitar attack. During its earliest hardcore punk-influenced years, this new strain of power trio went for speed and aggression almost to a fault. However, the group's songwriting duo of Mould and drummer Grant Hart were fiercely oblivious to musical boundaries, and this solid tune is an early highlight of Mould's continuous meditation on chaos and pain. More »

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"It's Not Funny Anymore"

Though Mould and Hart didn't typically compose together, both played a major role in the sound of one another's songs on the record. In this case, Hart takes lead vocals on his own composition, a standout from 1983's EP, but Mould's inventive, enormously influential modern rock guitar licks help drive the hurtling arrangement in a very central way. And although Hart's melodic singing style contrasts heavily with Mould's shout-based growls, the former's breakneck drumming approach creates an entirely separate but welcome dimension of its own.

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"Broken Home, Broken Heart"

Album Cover Image Courtesy of SST

Few music lovers remain unaware of the complete masterpiece status of 1984's double LP Zen Arcade, but many of the individual songs on that record almost stand on their own as mini-albums in their own right. In fact, the cumulative impact of Side One classics "Something I Learned Today," "Never Talking to You Again" and "Chartered Trips" far exceeds that of dozens of completely worthy '80s rock releases. Mould's portrait of a nightmare home life for a youth unable to process his pain gives a voice of immediacy to society's invisible pocket of suffering. And it's a premier example of punishing guitar rock as well.

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"Pink Turns to Blue"

Minneapolis post-hardcore band Husker Du delivered a flurry of albums throughout the '80s, all fiercely defiant in terms of commercial capitulation.
Album Cover Image Courtesy of SST

Rightfully so, Mould generally tends to carry the reputation as the primary creative force in Husker Du, but the truth is that much of the tense brilliance of the band stems from the nearly 50/50 collaborative relationship with Hart. This atmospheric track crackles with an undulating, unpredictable electricity that sounds - in the best possible way - like a marathon battle between Hart's catchy melodies and Mould's hugely influential wall of guitar sound. On a visceral concept album steeped in gripping emotional narrative, this song (along with ​"Turn on the News") deftly anchors this double LP's second half.

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"I Apologize"

Album Cover Image Courtesy of SST

The Huskers lost no momentum and settled into nothing resembling a lull for 1985's stunning, an epic if a slightly more conventional set of early alternative gems. Hart's astounding "The Girl Who Lives on Heaven Hill" and "Terms of Psychic Warfare" would easily belong on this list, but this straight-ahead Mould rocker presages the massively influential solo work this artist would generate during the '90s leading up to his great next band Sugar. Melodic, aggressive and relentless, this song nimbly captures the essence of Mould as an uncompromising guitarist and rock singer.

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"Celebrated Summer"

Here's another Mould guitar onslaught, a track that at once sets the stage for a mess of inferior emotive alternative rock to follow and stands firmly alone as one of the finest moments of the American underground. At times Mould's instrumental work can resemble the grind of machinery a bit too much (depending on the listener's emotional state, of course), but luckily he's a talented enough writer to match that frenzy with utterly authentic passion and accessible personal turmoil. The combination is almost always exhilarating, like a sprint down an unfamiliar hallway with a determined force in pursuit.

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"Books About UFOs"

The 15 tracks on New Day Rising provide an unpredictable sonic and narrative journey, but Hart's romantic musing is particularly welcome on this bouncy, piano-tinged tune. Stylistically, the presence of Mould's cascading sheets of the guitar may not seem at first to belong here, but ultimately the desperate attempts of Hart's drumming to keep up (or perhaps wait up - it can be hard to tell) help create a uniquely palpable intensity. Here's another dreamy female character from Hart, so easy to admire in her dogged pursuit of purity and light.

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"Makes No Sense at All"

Album Cover Image Courtesy of SST

A transitional single in many ways, this standout from 1985's - which turned out to be Husker Du's last release on SST before a brief major-label stint - gathers Mould's undeniable power pop sensibility but keeps it pumped full of energy. Bass player Greg Norton, the band's often forgotten the third member, may not seem to show up obviously in the group's sound, but it's likely that his presence served as a vital buffer between Hart and Mould that in part allowed for Husker Du's prolific output.

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"Don't Want to Know If You Are Lonely"

Album Cover Image Courtesy of Warner Bros.

Although the partnership between Mould and Hart was beyond strained by the release of Husker Du's major-label debut, 1986's, it's still a hard-hitting record. In spite of muted production that buries the group's live band ferocity even deeper than the sometimes tepid sound of its SST recordings, the quality of the songs shines through. Mould's suicide lament "Too Far Down" and Hart's wonderful "Sorry Somehow" remain personal favorites, but this mid-tempo rocker may simply be one of the finest desperate, injured rock songs of all time. Hart's bitter lyrics and passionate vocals penetrate emotional barriers without mercy and yet with much grace.

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"Could You Be the One?"

Album Cover Image Courtesy of Warner Bros.

Mould's plaintive repeated lyric from this melodic gem - "I don't even know what I'm fighting for" - probably sums up the state of Husker Du at the end of its career as well as any more verbose evaluations could provide. 1987's remains an accomplished swan song for a band that probably stayed together longer than its leaders could believe, at least upon reflection. This track, in particular, confirms the role Mould would surely play in molding the sound of alternative rock as it readied for a '90s windfall. Fine melodies awash in noise and punchy wrecking ball abandon: no one has ever done it better.

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Your Citation
Peake, Steve. "Top '80s Songs of Husker Du." ThoughtCo, Feb. 21, 2017, Peake, Steve. (2017, February 21). Top '80s Songs of Husker Du. Retrieved from Peake, Steve. "Top '80s Songs of Husker Du." ThoughtCo. (accessed November 24, 2017).