Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Hüsker Dü: The Story of the Noisepop Pioneers Who Launched Modern Rock (2010, Andrew Earles)

Here it is - my first book review.  I know, this is a movie review site, but why limit myself?  I was never really a big reader of books but have always had a fondness for biographies, particularly about movies and music.  To inaugurate my book reviews, I chose a new book about one of my favorite bands of all time - Hüsker Dü.  For anyone not familiar with the band, they begin in the late 70's as a hardcore punk band and eventually shed most of the hardcore and replaced it with pop, while still holding onto the punk.  Though never really getting the attention or fame that they deserved, shortly after their dissolution the kind of music they had been playing for years eventually became popular, with bands like Green Day and the Offspring becoming platinum selling artists.

Hüsker Dü: The Story of the Noisepop Pioneers Who Launched Modern Rock (long, but fitting title) explores the history of the band's humble beginnings playing local shows and eventually touring across the country in a van, before many other bands realized they could do it too.  Along with Black Flag, Hüsker Dü helped pave the way for touring bands to support themselves without the backing of a major label.  Eventually, Hüsker Dü's popularity within the underground and college rock scene grew and they became one of the first punk bands to be signed to a major.  Two albums later, tensions within the band became unbearable and Hüsker Dü was no more.  This book focuses on the band's formation, the bumps along the way and the overall impact it had on the independent punk scene and the way bands today function.

Author Andrew Earles' biography of one of the most important and sadly underappreciated (by the mainstream at least) bands focuses mostly on the history of the band in terms of their actual music, instead of the band member's personal lives.  This was definitely the right decision and helped put the focus on why the band was so great, instead of making it a gossip-y tell-all.  There are many stories floating around about the band members, most of which are one-sided or rumors, so it is good that that aspect was (mostly) left out of this book.  Giving a little background on the band members is important but the focus here is as should be - the music.  The one main detractor for the book is that Bob Mould (guitarist/vocalist) didn't participate, though this is of no fault to the author.  Mould is in the middle of writing his own memoir, which perfectly explains his lack of cooperation.  Fortunately the other two members, Grant Hart (drummer/vocalist) and Greg Norton (bassist) were willing to relate their stories.  There are several other musicians, producers and those around at the time (Mike Watt, Peter Jesperson, Joe Carducci, Terry Katzman, Lou Giordano) on hand as well to shed light on this legendary band.  Other than a few minor factual discrepancies and repetitions, this book was well researched and well written.  I didn't find myself bored at all and actually learned quite a bit that I didn't know about Hüsker Dü.  There was a nice section at the end detailing what the band members did after the break up as well as a intricate discography (including mix tape suggestions).  Overall, I would definitely recommend this book to any fans of music biographies or underground music lovers.

RATING: 8/10

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