Six Stars Out of Ten
1. From the Gut 2. Blah Blah Blah 3. Punch Drunk 4. Bricklayer 5. Afraid of Being Wrong 6. Sunshine Superman 7. Signals from Above 8. Everything Falls Apart 9. Wheels 10. Target 11. Obnoxious 12. Gravity Bonus Tracks 13. In A Free Land 14. What Do I want 15. M.I.C. 16. Statues 17. Let’s Go Die 18. Amusement 19. Do You Remember?
“Land Speed Record” caught a talented young band that had the technical skills to play ungodly fast. The poor production and speed left the impression, however, that there wasn’t any true songwriting talent in the band. Husker Du’s first full length studio album, “Everything Falls Apart” helps to dispel this notion. It is heralded by improved production (everything sounds clear and never in any danger of falling apart) and improved songwriting.
Wait, did I say full length studio album? The “studio” part is definitely correct but full length is a misnomer: while there are 12 tracks on the album, the album clocks in at an astonishingly brief 19 minutes and 18 seconds. It’s shorter than “Land Speed Record” by seven minutes, time enough for at least seven songs (in the Husker Du format). In fact, their next release “Metal Circus” is only 21 seconds shorter but is classified as an EP.
What makes this short length extra odd is that both albums were released in the same year. In fact, combining the albums into one would have made for a 38 minute long album with 19 tracks. Comparing the two albums is actually an interesting exercise as “Metal Circus” seems to be the exact point when the band started to value melody at all, integrating it into their songs. Adding the EP to “Everything Falls Apart” would have improved it immeasurably as it does lack the sense of melody and purpose that drove the best Husker Du albums.
This is not to say that “Everything Falls Apart” is no good. On the contrary, it actually showcases a powerhouse band just beginning to hit its prime. The lead off track “From the Gut” shows off improved production and playing techniques immediately. The arrangements are even a little clever for the hardcore style of the period. The song may lack an immediately catchy hook but the power, drive and devotion helps keep the listener interested, as does Bob’s great speedy guitar solo.
However, the main problem with the album pops up immediately. “Blah Blah Blah” actually has one of the best hooks on the album: the chorus chant of “blah blah blah” sticks in the mind long after the album is over. But separating songs from each other is going to be a hard task at this point. After three tracks that clock in at under 2:30 total, the band covers the Donovan classic “Sunshine Superman.” They, of course, convert it to the standard “Husker Du” style. It’s technically the best song on the album due to it having a melody. This is a small hint at the later levels of melodic marvel the band would hit.
However, the album is just one hardcore blur after another. Each song is arranged in a pretty traditional and standard hardcore format. Bob plays a speedy solo in each bridge and while he is an impressively fast guitarist, it all starts to sound the same. And every song is written by Mould who certainly didn’t value melody at this point in his career. In fact, Hart only sneaks in one track, the semi-catchy “Wheels” but it’s hard to tell the difference between he and Bob’s work at this point.
Fans of hardcore and of Husker Du won’t be let down by this album. It offers up plenty of fast paced tunes with highly political lyrics that are perfect for the time period. The album is over fast, making it a perfect album for those periods when you need a fast burst of aggression. Fans of real melody (such as this reviewer) will be let down after hearing their later albums.
Wait, wait, I can’t finish the review without mentioning the “And More” bonus tracks on the CD. The only CD edition of the album actually adds seven more songs to create a 42 minute listening experience. Mould contributes standout early tracks such as “In a Free Land” which is highly political and has a higher dose of melody than normal. He contributes three more songs in a similar vein. They are basically extensions of the previous musical ideas on the album and fit in perfectly.
Greg Norton even contributes one of his rare tracks with “Let’s Go Die.” It is a solid song that makes one long for more Norton contributions to the band. Alas, he was the bass player, the shy one and the straight one so it was not to be. Hard enough getting songs in with ego maniacs Mould and Hart bickering.
Speaking of Hart, he contributes two more songs. The highly personal “What Do I Want?” is a harbinger of a more sober and inward looking aesthetic for the band. However, his “Statues” is a grinding monster of a song. Clocking in at almost nine minutes, it is nearly industrial in its brutality. It shows a band that wasn’t afraid to experiment with their style, a sensibility which would pay off big dividends in the future.