Shedding a Little Light on the (Husker) Du’s and Don’ts of a Noise-Pop Journey

By Andy Nystrom
2 books on Husker Du; a biog, and one by Bob Mould – reviewed

I was young, and definitely not at the top of my game intellectually yet. But at age 15 in the summer of 1982, I tried to fit in the best I could with these guys six years older than me. Their buzzsaw guitars with a hint of pop melodies uplifted me, made me want to hang around and see what was going on inside the walls of Husker Du.

However, being a shy kid around these more advanced fellows from Minneapolis, I probably mumbled a thing here and nodded my head there, making a minimal impact. I was a good listener, though, and took it all in: their stories of being on the road, recording sessions, favorite bands and more while we hung out at SST Records in Redondo Beach, Calif.

Even if I spoke up more and asked personal questions, I might not have received any deep answers anyway. They were a mysterious group, and that made me like being around them even more. I was locked in to their sound — and later their introspective lyrics that have stuck with me over time.

Unlike some early fans, I didn’t fade away when the band moved more into the pop realm. I was on board the whole way, except for a handful of quirky and psychedelic songs that just didn’t resonate with me (but I suppose that’s a normal occurrence with bands with a tremendous musical output). I still follow their careers today, and still get a floating feeling when one of their songs strikes my emotions just right. Powerful stuff indeed.

As I grew up, and eventually had some interesting things to add to the conversations, they moved on and then broke up.

Now, nearly 30 years later, I’ve finally gotten to know a little bit more about Bob Mould, Grant Hart and Greg Norton through two books: Andrew Earles’ “Husker Du: The Story of the Noise-Pop Pioneers Who Launched Modern Rock” and Mould’s “See a Little Light: The Trail of Rage and Melody.”

Earles went full-tilt into his book, interviewing tons of people (including yours truly) who knew and followed the band — including lengthy visits with Hart and Norton, but Mould declined to participate (but he’s quoted from past interviews). It’s pretty much a blow-by-blow account of the highs and lows of the band, and the reader gets some in-depth answers into the trio’s relationship and breakup and everything in between. However, a present-day Mould is sorely missing, and that’s where “See a Little Light” comes into play.

Written with Michael Azerrad, Mould’s life is now truly an open book — once he starts, you’re in for the full ride. It’s a complex and satisfying read: He doesn’t just tell stories about his music, homosexuality, drug and alcohol addiction, relationships and family life — he digs deep into his feelings, goes back to those sometimes dark places and mans up that he’s made mistakes, but he’s also made wise decisions and found peace amid the chaos.

While it’s impressive and gutsy how he can leave the past behind and start anew with parts of his life and relationships, his ego can sometimes be a turn-off when it comes to his — albeit well-deserved — place in rock history. (He does go the hard road in praising Hart for many of his stellar, and the Huskers’ most revered, songs.)

Mould travels from anger to confusion to hope to happiness and back again along the way, a pattern that we all can relate to during our everyday lives, whether we’re age 15 or now a more mature 44.

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