Husker Du (1984) Zen Arcade LP

Husker Du
Zen Arcade
SST 027

Rating:***** (Good Shit)
produced: Spot and Husker Du
released September 1984

Four-sider concept album from this Minnesota hardcore outfit.  It sounded like a stupid idea but it sounds great, the trio managing to stretch the sound without losing their vision of a hardcore world, plenty of straightforward HC, but some cuts blurring the fuzz into an almost acid-rock sound.

It’s easy to hear how this not only influenced many bands at the time of its release but also bands years later, including outfits at the end of the 80s that would help launch the sounds of the 90s. (Unfortunately, most of the bands of the 90s seemed to completely forget the lessons of this album.)

While this perhaps would have been better served if distilled down to two sides, who am I to tell Husker what to do. As it sits, it remains one of the few double albums that managed to fill all four sides without going into filler material.  It’s a classic.

— winch (author of…


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Zero Boys (1982) Vicious Circle LP

Zero Boys

Vicious Circle

Produced by Zero Boys & John Helms

Good Shit *****


These Hoosiers were clearly coming out of mid-70s NYC underground, specifically the Ramones, the Dictators, some NY Dolls snotty pop swagger mixed with 80s hardcore, scrawny punk-boy vocals with a killer muscular driving rhythm, powerpop laced with benzedrine, production tight as a noose, not a weak moment.  Essential 80s punk. 


— winch (author of Kalamazoo: Growing Up Sideways in the 1970s and the two-part novel Junk Like That: Motor City Jailbait & Junk Like That: Motor City Junior High)

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SHOES: Present Tense (record review)

Present Tense
Elektra (6E-244)
Producer: Mike Stone
Rating: **** (Recommended)
Second set from this Midwest outfit, released October 1979 (US & UK), reached #50 in the US
This band was bit like fellow Illinois rockers Cheap Trick except while Trick had heavy hard-rock leanings, this group leans the other way, sort of a mix of Trick and the Raspberries.  While everybody had to mention the Beatles influence, this clearly comes from the Midwest, sounding like they were influenced by many artists, including perhaps the Everly Brothers.  Of course, that group came from the early days of rock & roll, and showed elements of their Kentucky home, while this clearly comes from the “present tense,” the urban world of the late 70s.  The music is clean as the streets of a new subdivision.  

Some of the material leans deep into pop territory, but other cuts have enough to remind you that they were still a rock-and-roll band.  A couple of the cuts sound quite a bit like Cheap Trick, and other cuts almost hint back to the Beach Boys, but they have a sound all their own, and when it comes to polished power-pop, this is about as good as it gets.  Many bands tried to copycat this sound in the years and decades that followed, but most couldn’t pull it off like this outfit.
 The lineup included Jeff Murphy (guitar, vocals, songs), Skip Meyer (drums), Gary Klebe (guitar, vocals, songs), and John Murphy (bass, vocals, songs).