31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
A punk concept album. Really!,
This review is from: Zen Arcade (Audio CD)
Husker Du were always changing, in the space of a few years they had moved from the epic-minimalism of 'Statues' to the agony of 'Diane' to the frantic 'In a Free Land' to this concept double-album (!) Imagine a US punk take of 'Quadrophenia'- the next step on from Townshend.
'Something I Learned Today' & 'Broken Home, Broken Heart' sit up there with The Replacements 'Unsatisfied'. The influence on Nirvana is apparent; comedy corporate punk bands like Blink 182, Green Day & Sum 141 sound so false next to this...
Grant Hart goes all Richard Thompson for the gorgeous acoustic track 'Never Talking to You Again'. Then Mould takes us to pop-punk heaven with 'Chartered Trips', moving towards the sound of 'New Day Rising'...'Dreams Reoccuring' is a brief instrumental, sounding like the kind of semi-backwards b-side the Stone Roses got acclaimed for five years later...'Indecision Time' is a violent thrash that could have been played by Black Flag; this moves into 'Hare Krsna'- a bizarre jazz-inflected instrumental- whose repetition beats the hell out of Slint & all the other post-rockers!...'Beyond the Threshold' & 'Pride' are more speedy teenangst cuts; the difference is, the Du meant it. This wasn't radio friendly revolution for heavy rotation...'I'll Never Forget You' is an epic punk track, which while being oxymoronic is the only way to describe it. 'The Biggest Lie' was ripped off by Slaughterhouse for the soundtrack to 'Wild at Heart'. This is almost metal, until Hart's drums veer the song off down mania avenue; the sounds Mould gets out of his guitar!...'What's Going On' is next, the band all singing as one; this one was ripped off for the Punpkins '1979'. There is a pop-element here- as bizarre as something like Joy Division's 'Dead Souls' or Pere Ubu's 'My Dark Ages'...'Masochism World' is inflected with strange loops and an echoeing vocal- this was included on their classic 'Eight Miles High' single.It is also where they start using harmonic backing vocals!...'Standing by the Sea' opens with sound-effects and a looping bassline, the song is slightly slower- looking towards songs like 'Find Me' & '59 Times the Pain'...'Somewhere' is very poppy, this is what the Strokes should sound like; it is also a purifying moment for the album. Looking beyond and towards...'One Step at a Time', as the later 'Monday Will Never be the Same' are piano-based instrumental pieces that give the album a scope in style and would not sound out of place on a This Mortal Coil album...'Pink Turns to Blue' is one of Grant Hart's finest songs- up there with 'Diane', 'Sorry Somehow' & 'Tell You Why Tomorrow'. It's a classic teenage-love turned tragedy song that remains timeless in theme. The theme of drugs is invading, notably...'Newest Industry' opens with chiming guitars and an adventerous bassline- the album is becoming much sharper, less violent- more emotional...'Whatever'is a thoughtful slice of mania that stretches the conventional hardcore thrash to new ends; Hart & Mould singing together at the end gives the song such power.'The Tooth Fairy & the Princess'is an odd instrumental that sounds like Bill Nelson on LSD gone lo-fi, it intones "Don't Give Up/Don't Let Go/Don't Give In/Don't Let On/In Your Bed/Late at Night/Red hot Red/Don't Get Up'. Is this a dream of an inaccessible childhood memory?...'Turn on the News' opens with radio-static, recorded voices & sinister piano- as if a radio dial is being turned...then the song comes in and we get a pop-inflected punk'n'roll song. This is one that has lots of chanting and was a definite influence on fellow Minneaopilan Prince for 'Sign'o'the Times'...The album ends on the epic encore of 'Reoccuring Dreams'- this one goes to infinity & is close to a punk interpretation of Coltrane circa 'Live at Vanguard'.
'Zen Arcade' is a great, great album that deserves to find an audience today. It would be an ideal introduction to the Du- and remains a highlight of the Eighties, which can't have been that bad with records this good!