Time can really change perception, especially when it comes to cultural artifacts. I have read online abbout how this is one of Hüsker’s great albums, perhaps even their best. But I don’t hear it. I don’t know if that’s because I haven’t sat down and listened to New Day Rising recently or whether it’s because this is less the version of the band I like, or whether it’s time, but I don’t get it.
It’s true, the songs are catchier and poppier than the past – or, at least, more of the songs are poppier than in the past. Some of them are among the Dü’s best songs. I’m not sure that anywhere enough of them are for this record to be considered among the band’s best work, but the material is mostly pretty strong. As others have noted, their sheer amount of songs at this point is pretty staggering. They were just pumping them out at a rate I don’t think any other post hardcore band could compete with. (This band released 6 albums, two of which were doubles, in 4 years. And then broke up.)
The band is considerably less aggressive than on New Day Rising and, with the exception of the instrumentals, they are considerably less diverse than on Zen Arcade. (I mean, they’re less diverse in general, but the instrumentals make you feel as though maybe they’re not.) A lot of people think this is some kind of positive evolution. It’s certainly an evolution but I’m not 100% sure how entirely positive it is. Certainly records like this are more accessible than their earlier stuff and are likely more influential. You might argue this is one of the records that accounts for the idea that they invented (or very heavily inspired the invention of) emo. But, on a personal level, I just prefer the louder, weirder, super ambitious version of the band.
I also don’t get how the production is “better”. To me, virtually every Hüsker Dü albums I’ve ever heard doesn’t sound very good. Does this sound better than the earlier records with actual producers? Really? I don’t hear it. Maybe it’s because I haven’t listened to the earlier SST albums recently but if it’s better sounding it’s marginally better sounding.
And the sequencing is not great – why put the instrumentals at the end? I don’t understand why you would do that. Many people get bored by instrumentals. (Not me, but many people do.)
I know this sounds like a pan and it really, really isn’t. One of the great bands of their era took a left-turn likely to alienate some of their fans and they basically succeeded at it. The problem I have with the record is more its reputation than the record itself. I wish it sounded better but I wish all Hüsker Dü records sounded better. Otherwise, it’s one of the most important bands of the 1980s doing their thing and doing it well. I just prefer the earlier, louder, weirder version of that band.