After Husker Du exploded 22 years ago, Bob Mould went on to solo work and Sugar, both of which were well received by critic and fan alike. Grant Hart, the other singer and songwriter of Du, stayed in the shadows of the underground, releasing the cathartic Intolerance, then forming Nova Mob. Though his recording career has been infrequent, Hart's solo work has shown an impressive consistency throughout...he has a high standard of songwriting excellence, varies his tempos and instrumentation, and truly, his solo releases remind us why Husker Du was so much more than just Bob Mould, even if Mould had more overall influence on the band's sound.
And so, Grant Hart returns after an extended hiatus from recording with Hot Wax, a record that could have been released in...wait for it...1968. This is by no means a bad thing...Hart keeps the organ and piano front and center, giving songs like the opening "You're the Reflection of the Moon on the Water" a fat, San Francisco sound even as his lyrics cut sharply into the essence of his subject. ("You're the reflection of the moon on the water/But you're not the moon"). Wow. Throughout the record, Hart takes in both social issues ("Charles Hollis Jones," "School Buses are for Children") as well as personal ones ("Narcissus, Narcissus," "My Regrets"), all the while maintaining the album as a low-tech, high energy affair. Oh, it's true that the guitars are higher in the mix sometimes than they would have been 40 years ago...this is a modern album, after all. But the spirit of Hot Wax seems to have roots in that San Francisco past. It's as if he found a stack of Airplane LPs and a couple of early Bowie or T-Rex imports, played them incessantly for a month, and then recorded this album.
However, at no time does the LP sound derivative in any way. This isn't an echo of another time, or a celebration of the past, but rather a way to catch the feelings that he wants to get across to us, the listener. Hart remains a true American original, and has released an album that's more fun than Bob Mould's ever been, but just as insightful. Recommended for fans of Husker Du, fans of the 60s, and just plain fans of good music. Wonderful stuff.