Husker Du Series Part 5: Metal Circus

Metal Circus

Eight out of Ten

1. Real World 2. Deadly Skies 3. It’s Not Funny Anymore 4. First of the Last Calls 5. Lifeline 6. Diane 7. Out on a Limb

In 1983, Husker Du released the EP “Metal Circus.” This EP was recorded only five or six months after “Everything Falls Apart” but was only several seconds shorter that “full length debut studio album.” In fact, four songs were nearly added to the album to make it 30 minutes long but these songs were dropped.

Many people feel an instinct to ignore EP albums, considering them filter or inessential. This is honestly often the truth. EP’s are often tossed off pieces of fluff released to appease a rabid fan base while the band works up enough songs for their next album.

However, this simply cannot apply to this EP. After all, it was released a mere eight months after their last album. Their simply couldn’t have been that high of a demand for new product from the band in such a short time. Although the band was popular enough at the time amongst hardcore fans, they simply couldn’t have expected such a short return between album and EP.

Another thing that cannot be ignored is the high quality of the album. It seems that the band was simply proud of the songs they had written and simply wanted to get them out as soon as possible. And they were rightly proud! “Metal Circus” stands as the first indication that Husker Du was capable of stretching beyond their self-imposed hardcore artistic boundaries and able to integrate melodies, harmonies and logical song structure.

The melodic content of the album is exponentially higher than the first album. Each song has its own melodic content, its own unique hook and its own feel. However, it is not a “sell out” in any way: the melodic content is integrated into each of the songs in a way that seems natural with the genre and never seems like the band is “slowing down” or “wimping out.”

This greater integration of melody is just one reason this EP stands heads and shoulders above their previous work. The emergence of Grant Hart as a serious songwriter is another important development on the album. Although Grant only wrote two songs here (and would never write more than a half album with the band, as dictated by Bob Mould, a condition which contributed to their break up) they are two of the best songs on the album. In fact, they stand as two of the bands best songs.

“It’s Not Funny Anymore” has a pop melody that simply cannot be forgotten. Grant’s less severe singing voice helps the vocal melody stand out more prominently and even gives the listener the chance to understand the lyrics.

“Diane” is an infamous song, sung in the perspective of a murderer/rapist. The melody is less pronounced here but Grant’s singing is at its finest. The intensity, despair and rage he projects is frightening as are the background vocals that sound closer to “Die Ann” than “Diane.”

Bob Mould contributes the rest of the songs in his well-worn yet still sturdy hardcore style. His riffs are becoming more interesting, his guitar playing even faster and his vocalization more melodic. Yes, Bob still mostly screams his way through the songs but Bob has a hell of a scream and its incredible to hear.
Although Bob’s songwriting still hasn’t quite reached the “instantly memorable” status of Grant’s, his songwriting forms the backbone of this album and this band. All his songs are delivered with the appropriate level of passion and integrity necessary and everything stands out loud and clear as a huge advancement from their last album.

This album should not be missed when listening to the works of Husker Du. It provides a clear and vital link to the huge jump in quality from “Everything Falls Apart” to the legendary “Zen Arcade.” The band’s ambitions and songwriting had jumped incredibly quickly in only a few months and would soon jump even higher.

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About Culture Fusion Reviews

A multi-effort web review periodical of varied cultural landmarks curated by Eric Benac: freelance writer, journalist, artist, musician, comedian, and 30-ish fellow caught in and trying to make sense of the slipstream of reality.

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