From Hüsker Dü to Sugar to solo, Mould is a leading posthardcore singer-songwriter with a fascinating catalogue.
Part of the legendary 1980s hardcore punk milieu alongside Black Flag, Bad Brains, Minor Threat and Minutemen, Hüsker Dü’s evolution from rudimentary hardcore scratch to composers of poignant alternative rock made them easily comparable to their twincity hometown peers The Replacements.
Formed in 1979 in Saint Paul, melodic post-hardcore pioneers Hüsker Dü split in 1988 in tragic circumstances following the suicide of the band’s manager and a breakdown between band members at the start of a tour for their second major-label album. Essentially, Hüsker Dü were on the verge of going huge. The split and fallout left a deep psychological scar on lead singer/ guitarist Bob Mould, and informed his early solo work. Competitive by nature, Hüsker Dü’s songwriters Mould and Grant Hart were once described by bassist Greg Norton as the Lennon and McCartney of punk rock. Mould was the more prolific Dü songwriter, but drummer Hart (who passed away last year) was consistently impressive.
Evolving their sound beyond their labelmates and peers, the band were one of the first to commit the cardinal hardcore punk scene sin of signing to a major label. The ‘controversy’ dogged Dü for the rest of their career. Incredibly, even Joan Rivers brought it up when they played on her chat show in 1987. It was all just jealousy from those who can’t bear a band progressing.
Dü’s first two albums, the live Land
Speed Record and the 12-track, 20-minute Everything Falls Apart both showcased that chaotic hardcore abrasion. Their second studio album, the highly influential double Zen Arcade, can legitimately lay claim to being the first punk rock concept album, at a time when Green Day were still in primary school. Zen Arcade proved Dü’s songwriting clout, and they gradually evolved their sound throughout the sublime pair New Day Rising and Flip Your Wig before outgrowing the punk scene and signing with Warners for Candy Apple Grey and swansong Warehouse: Songs And Stories.
Withdrawing after the collapse of
Hüsker Dü, Mould’s early solo material of introverted Americana put a full stop on the band, as did the subsequent runaway success of his power trio Sugar in the early 90s, not least with debut album Copper
Blue. That was followed up by the EP Beaster and File Under Easy Listening before Mould returned to solo work – which features more highlights than we can accomodate here. Alex Burrows
Bob Mould: more than justa pioneer of hardcore.