Hüsker Dü's seminal, 1984 tour-de-force, double LP, Zen Arcade....and a bootleg live CD. Save for a couple of tribute albums, I've featured next to no Hüsker material on Wilfully Obscure, due in part to SST and WB for keeping their catalog in print, and to a handful of bloggers who've assembled b-sides compilations. Nonetheless, I firmly believe that music fans could do no better in the '80s than this storied Minneapolis power trio, who fused riff-roaring punk with some of the finest and most innovative melodic structures ever. I hold the opinion that Bob Mould, Grant Hart, and Greg Norton's halcyon era commenced in earnest with the release of 1983's Metal Circus ep. Back then, as the case is still largely today, it takes a full fledged album to really reign in ears en masse. Though Hüsker Dü's first proper studio album, Everything Falls Apart dropped in 1982, Zen Arcade was the record that jettisoned the band into the limelight, for lack of a better word.
There is no universal agreement as to which Hüsker record is the most representative, or for that matter, timeless, but the trio's most ambitious recordings ever committed to vinyl fall squarely in the realm of this auspicious concept album. Those "concepts," which are somewhat malleable in interpretation, involves a pained childhood, teen angst, and runaway scenarios among other related themes. What sprang out in that angst-laden aftermath was some of Hüsker Dü's most sophisticated and cathartic song arrangements, setting up something of a template for Zen Arcade's successor albums, particularly New Day Rising, and to a lesser extent Flip Your Wig. Many, many Hüsker classics reside among Zen's four hallowed sides: "Chartered Trips," "What's Going On," "Pink Turns to Blue," "Turn on the News," and "Something I Learned Today" to roll call a few.
The collection of 57 tracks I'm offering today consist of alternate versions of just about every song on the album, including rough mixes, demos, and even a handful of rehearsal recordings that were recorded via an idling stylus in the studio. You'll find several instrumental takes here too, including a vocal-less version of "Eight Miles High," a rather incendiary rendition of the Byrds classic that eventually found it's way onto a single that same year. As for any obvious revelations, it might be wise to temper your expectations, since the variances between these versions and the finished products are slight in some cases. One particular number that stood out for me was the fourteen minute plus "Reoccurring Dreams" which leads off disk two in expansive and howling fashion. For a complete breakdown of which tracks are "rough mixes" vs "demos" etc, the info file found in the folder for disk one does a good job of differentiating and cataloging everything. Special thanks to the generous and anonymous individual who arranged and digitized this collection, made available as a bit torrent last year. I'll consider offering a flac (lossless) version of this should there be enough interest expressed.
To sweeten the holiday pot, we've also got a silver disk live bootleg, bearing the title Psychepowerpopapunk. Eighteen cuts from a 1985 performance in Minneapolis (the actual date is not revealed in the CD booklet). It's quite possible that the entire show is not represented here, but from what my ears are able to discern, this is a soundboard recording, which by the way features a Buddy Holly cover, "You're So Square" sung by Mr. Hart. Track ten, listed as "Sons of Bitches" on the CD tray card is actually "Celebrated Summer." The booklet includes an interview wih Bob, which I've scanned in for your reading leisure. Bon appetit.
Zen Arcade sessions, Disk 1
Something I Learned Today/Broken Home, Broken Heart/Chartered Trips/Hare Krsna/Indecision Time/I’ll Never Forget You/Beyond the Threshold/The Biggest Lie/Pride/What’s Going On/Masochism World/Standing By the Sea/Somewhere/Pink Turns to Blue/Dozen Beats Eleven/Turn on the News/Newest Industry/Whatever/Eight Miles High/The Tooth Fairy and the Princess
Zen Arcade sessions, Disk 2
Reoccurring Dreams/Chartered Trips/Hare Krsna/One Step at a Time/Monday Will Never Be the Same/untitled (aka Granted)/ Never Talking to You Again/Somewhere/One Step at a Time/Punk Turns to Blue/Newest Industry/Monday Will Never Be the Same/Whatever/Something I Learned Today/Broken Home, Broken Heart/Chartered Trips/Indecision Time/I’ll Never Forget You/Beyond the Threshold/The Biggest Lie/Pride
Zen Arcade sessions, Disk 3
What’s Going On/Masochism World/Standing By the Sea/Somewhere/One Step at a Time/Pink Turns to Blue/Some Kind of Fun/Turn on the News/Newest Industry/Monday Will Never Be the Same/Whatever/Eight Miles High
Rehearsals: Whatever/Indecision Time/Somewhere/Dozen Beats Eleven
Psychepowerpopapunk (live Minneapolis 1985)
The Girl Who Lives on Heaven Hill/Every Everything/Makes No Sense at All/Don’t Want to Know/I Don’t Know For Sure/Terms of Psychic Warfare/Hardly Getting Over It/Sorry Somehow/You Are So Square/Celebrated Summer/Green Eyes/Divide and Conquer/All Work and No Play/Powerline/Books About UFOs/Flip Your Wig/I Apologize/If I Told You
Zen Arcade sessions - all three disks now in one file: Hear
Psychepowerpopapunk live 1985: Hear