Friday, July 26, 2013

Grant Hart: The Argument" (album review)

As a founding member of the legendary Husker Du, Grant Hart has plenty of experience with concept albums.  That still doesn't prepare you adequately for The Argument, his new record based on John Milton's Paradise Lost.

Sprawling out over the course of twenty tracks, The Argument is an ambitious record (no shit you say).  Hart sings in character throughout the album, which can be both exhilarating and tiresome.

The album is very slow to reveal itself.  It opens with the aptly-titled experimental number "Out of Chaos".  It leads into a set of tracks, like "If We Have the Will", "I Will Never See My Home", and "I Am Death" that range from grating to bland to ho-hum.

One of the limiting aspects of the album is the production.  It's got the same flat, hollow feel as many of the mid-80s Husker Du records.  That keeps some tracks, like the catchy mid-tempo "Morningstar", from fully realizing the potential of their impact.

It's in the second part of the album that it hits it's stride.  A playful whistle punctuates "So Far From Heaven".  A keyboard adds sway to "Shine, Shine, Shine".  A slight country lilt makes "Sin" a guilty pleasure.  "Underneath the Apple Tree" is a laid back, strummed ditty.

The title track provides a complete change of pace.  It's a slithering, snaky tune that draws influence from Middle Eastern rhythms.

The record's standout tracks are a pair of power pop numbers.  The guitar-driven "It Isn't Love" could easily be mistaken for a Husker classic.  The title says it all for "Glorious", a hook-heavy gem that may be the best thing Hart has written post-Husker.  Unfortunately stuck between is "War In Heaven", which relies on combat sounds.

After a slow start, The Argument evolves into a splendid record.  Unfortunately, it can be patience-trying along the way.

Best tracks: "It Isn't Love", "Glorious"

Track listing for The Argument:
  • Out of Chaos
  • Morningstar
  • Awake, Arise!
  • If We Have the Will
  • I Will Never See My Home
  • I Am Death
  • Sin
  • Letting Me Out
  • Is the Sky the Limit?
  • Golden Chain
  • So Far From Heaven
  • Sine, Shine, Shine
  • It Isn't Love
  • War In Heaven
  • Glorious
  • (It Was a) Most Disturbing Dream
  • Underneath the Apple Tree
  • The Argument
  • Run for the Wilderness
  • For Those Too High Aspiring

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