Hüsker Dü never sounded any better than they did through the shitty old stereo cassette player in my Ford Festiva. Turned up all the way, the two speakers would crackle and clip with every wash of Bob Mould’s pick across the scorched strings of his electric guitar. The wall of noise shook the car as Grant Hart screamed underneath the fury of a thousand teenage dreams left broken at the doorstep of the girl that lived on “Heaven Hill.” Nothing could have been better, and nothing ever was.
I bought Hüsker Dü’s album New Day Rising at the beginning of my second semester of college. It was soon one of my favorite albums. I copied the compact disc to the A-side of a 90-minute cassette, with their follow-up album Flip Your Wig on the flip-side. Those songs were an ever-ready presence during the travels of my late teens and early twenties; the memory of the triumphant “Celebrated Summer” burning up with me in my un-air-conditioned Festiva during the southeast Missouri summer is still so fresh it could have been yesterday. “Books About UFOs” was my favorite song, its mix of pop, punk, and piano too much for any fan of a great, hummable melody to resist.
The songwriting styles of guitarist Mould and drummer Hart meld perfectly on the album, with Hart unsurprisingly – at least in hindsight – providing the sing-songy moments (see especially “Terms of Psychic Warfare” and the aforementioned “Books”), and Mould exorcising demons through his apologetic, mumbled riff-driven nightmares (see “59 Times the Pain”).
And then there’s the title track, “New Day Rising.” This song is more about power than songwriting prowess, consisting of only three words so desperately sung they making tomorrow seem more like a threat rather than the joyous celebration of a new day. And maybe those words were right.
My cassette copy of New Day Rising became increasingly brittle through the years, enduring hot summers and cold winters that occurred alongside the happiness and sadness of my own personal life, the stress of overuse and living that affects us all. I remember the day of the cassette’s demise; as I drove there was an abrupt halt to the music. I hit the eject button, only to see magnetic resonance tape spill out as if the cassette had been disemboweled. It could not be repaired, but the sound lives on.
Now whenever I listen to New Day Rising – now in a different car and now through an mp3 delivered through the output jack on my iPhone – the squall of the music/noise might not be the same as it was through that shitty stereo, but the intense pulse of a band on fire, never to be bested, still and always will remain.
Rating: 5 stars out of 5