Thursday, April 14, 2011

"Husker Du: the Story of the Noise-Pop Pioneers Who Launched Modern Rock" by Andrew Earles (book review)

There can be no denying the impact that Minneapolis power pop trailblazers Hüsker Dü had on what we call indie rock today.  There's also no denying that their story warrants telling in detail.  So I applaud writer Andrew Earles for taking up the cause and giving us Husker Du: The Story of the Noise-Pop Pioneers Who Launched Modern Rock.  It is clearly a labour of love for him.

Unfortunately, the execution is sorely lacking.  Too much of the book is written in the manner of a dry chronology.  Even as a chronological history of Hüsker Dü it's lacking as Earles seems unable to resist plopping in chapters dealing with specific themes, such as the one about the band's label Reflex, that completely disrupt the flow.  As a reader it makes you feel like you're in Groundhog Day, except in this case you always wake up with Everything Falls Apart being released.

In the moments when the book isn't a straight historical narrative, it deals with the band's issues with all the depth of an autograph-seeking fan.

Considering the wide range of firsthand account and contemporaries who made themselves available for the book (SST's Joe Carducci, Peter Jespersen of TwinTone, The Minutemen's Mike Watt, Clint Cosley of Mission Of Burma, and dozens more), you would think that the end product would have far more insight than it does.  Even Grant Hart and Greg Norton provided their thoughts (Bob Mould has his own autobiography due out later this year).  The end result has to be a disappointment for fans.

When you have this access readers want you to ask 'why' something happened.  For example why did the band begin to venture away from their hardcore sound?  Or why did they move to psychedelic walls of sound rather than, say electronic wall of sound?  Rather than probe for the band's motivations, Earles is content with the simple answers like 'they had run the course with that sound'.

On the plus side, the music is the most prominent element of the tale.  Alas, this is where Earles' fandom is most conspicuous.  Again, the depth is non-existent.  Earles refuses to provide any reasons why he likes a song beyond saying 'it's good'.  That may do for a Grade 6 book report, but you expect more from a major work on an important artist.

I won't even get into his ignorance of source material that came before.

In the end, if you don't know the Hüsker Dü story, then this book will give you at least a skeletal overview of the band and a cursory glimpse into its importance in today's world.  However, if you are looking for insight you'd be better off waiting for the Mould autobiography.

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