Grant Hart: Yes, I Remember

Posted by The Bay Area Crew, October 3, 2017 06:59pm | Post a Comment

by Casey Dresser

Pap-boom-pap-boom-pap-boom, New Day Rising - the seminal, legendary, and absolutely classic Grant HartHüsker Dü post-hardcore masterpiece kicks off with a nice blast beat from Grant Hart before Bob Mould's swirling, fuzzy, and overdriven guitars and Greg Norton's precision dynamic bass take us where we are going for the next 40 minutes or so.

I immediately put this record on when I heard of Grant Hart's death on September 13th. It seemed like the right thing to do...

My friend Bret has a morbid fascination with people dying. Whenever someone even remotely famous dies, I get a text. They don't even have to have a Wikipedia page to warrant a "RIP" from ol' Bret ("Bill Smith, who was an extra on episode 4 of season 6 of House, passed away this morning. RIP."). I usually just ignore them; I don't care about most celebrities dying. It doesn't effect my life and I highly doubt they would be too bent out of shape if someone told them I had died. Grant was different though. Grant was still young, putting out relevant music, and surely had a lot more to give us. This one did effect my life and it made me sad.

Grant Hart was an extremely talented musician with a gift for melody and a tremendous aptitude for orchestration. He and Bob Mould met at Cheapo Records in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1979 and formed one of the greatest bands of the post-hardcore second (third?) wave punk scene that became a major name on the legendary mid-1980's SST roster. He wasn't just the drummer, he also wrote and sang about half the songs. He and Bob Mould were a Lennon-McCartney or a Jagger-Richards of the punk era - blazing new trails and writing some beautiful, innovative, and downright catchy songs along the way. They each wrote and sang their own songs and on their best albums it felt like each song was an attempt to one up the other guy. To top the previous song with a better one.

The fact that someone was a member of such a groundbreaking band alone would solidify their status as a Rock and Roll God, but Mr. Hart went on to have a very fruitful solo career that could easily stand alone on its own merits. His natural gift for writing a catchy pop song wrapped up in amazing and always innovative sound structures is key to his music. From Grant's first solo release under his name to a couple of albums with the band Nova Mob (named after the control addicts in William S Burroughs' Nova Express novel) and on to his last double album release in 2013, the music was always distinct and fascinating. The music rewards repeated listens, yet is catchy enough to grab you the first time too.

It seems irrelevant in this day and age that Grant and Bob were openly homosexual, but in the über Husker Du, New Day Risingmacho hardcore scene of the 1980's that took courage. Grant always seemed to do what he felt in his heart and we are lucky to have the songs he gave us - that fearlessness translated into his songwriting. He also created collage art to pay the bills, and even that he put his every everything into. Just like his songs, you could look at one of his collages and think "wow, that's cool," but the longer you look at it, the more detail jumps out at you as it reveals it's true beauty. As far as his visual art, he created all the classic Hüsker Dü album covers, a Replacements album cover, and all his own albums too.

If you already know Grant's entire discography, I am preaching to the choir. But if you are interested, start with Hüsker Dü. Either New Day Rising or Flip your Wig are great and very accessible albums. If that's too heavy for you, then sink your teeth into his first Husker Du, Flip Your Wigsolo album, Intolerance -- It's a catchy and beautiful album -- as well as the first Nova Mob album, Last Days of Pompeii. They all feature Grant's haunting melodies, but what sets his music apart is the downright fascinating sounds he coaxed out of various instruments. The combination of sounds and how he makes them come across as beautiful, seamless, and fascinating in the context of a catchy song is what will keep you coming back. Grant was a big fan of The Beatles and he does a wonderful job of carrying on the traditions they started on their latter albums.

His last solo album is probably my favorite, though. The Argument is a double album based on John Milton's Paradise Lost (don't look at me! I just heard him say that in an interview. I have never even attempted to read that monster). Musically, it is all over the place in the best kind of way. Whatever direction he goes in on each song, he does it perfectly. Be it Buddy Holly, Bob Dylan, Ray Davies, Patti Smith, Neutral Milk Hotel, or some modern indie band I can't quite name, he wears his influences on his sleeve while putting his unmistakable stamp on it. The Argument honors the tradition of the genre-bending Double Concept Album (The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, the White Album, Exile on Main Street, Quadrophenia, London Calling, etc.)

I reviewed The Argument in Music We Like back in 2013. I don't remember exactly what I said and I'm too tired to go look for it now, but it's a hard album to sum up because of the fact that each song, just like Grant, is a singular beautiful creation that stands apart from everything around it. I was really looking forward to the next one, but I guess that's it. I hope this article encourages at least one person to either explore Grant's music or dig a little deeper into his catalog. You won't regret it.

Relevant Tags

Casey Dresser (1), Grant Hart (1), Hüsker Dü (2), Punk (68), Hardcore (10), Bob Mould (11), Sst Records (1), Nova Mob (1), William S Burroughs (2), John Milton (1)