Whilst Husker Du are one of my all-time favourite bands I must admit I didn’t even know this album existed until a few days ago. Grant Hart is arguably the more skilled songwriter from Husker Du or at least I think his songs just edge past the writing of Bob Mould. I discovered 2013’s The Argument by a wander around YouTube searching for live Husker Du material after Data Control from Land Speed Record popped into my head at the launderette.
I honestly thought I’d never hear the songwriting skill of Grant Hart reach such peaks again. The Argument is a double album conceptually based around John Milton’s Paradise Lost poem as reworked by William S. Burroughs. What someone from a certain generation will notice immediately is the typography – which looks exactly like the Nirvana logo – but hey Grant Hart can do this, because, y’know.
Second song and first full song proper Morningstar grabbed my ears straight away. Sounding fully like The National at their Boxer peak with that drum padding and psychedelic guitar of Husker Du, I actually couldn’t believe how good this sounded. A simply sonic and utterly beautiful song.
First and last to appear inside the starry sphere.
Purest of love and light, highest in orders bright
Joins roles from you the source, gladness without remorse
Bounty of golden bliss, tell me which light is this
Black hole in the opaque, a candle on a cake
Lightest of light you are, a firefly in a jar
A mirror in the sun, signal to everyone
Blazing a distant pyre, more fingers full of fire
You are, you are, you are the Morningstar
The wind is in the sail, the fire is in the hold
Water is in the pail, the Earth is in a hole
The moon is in a dream, the sun is in a stream
The distance isn’t far, you are the Morningstar
You are, you are, you are the Morningstar
Awake, Arise is another twist I was not expecting. Grant Hart sounds like David Bowie vocally all of a sudden. Tones of Nick Cave in depth, darkness and delivery. The lost musician is seemingly properly back and it’s staggering. The album has consumed my weekend, 11 plays and counting and it’s only getting better. Grant Hart has always struck me as indestructible but you can see life has taken it’s toll and he has aged but the music is seemingly a new welcome release and chase of its own.
The Bowie style continues with fairground pomp of Husker Du with the processional If We Have The Will which in-turn bleeds conceptually into the lo-fi blur of warmth and longing that is I Will Never See My Home. I Am Death has that new feel. Again it sounds like The National, Bowie, Husker Du and all the while something completely new. Dog barks, jangles, rhythms. Psychedelic Pop perfection – which if it filled a new album from Dylan or Bowie would sell by the million. In contrast Grant Hart plays to audiences which dent less than the 100 in attendance mark. There’s a tragedy in there somewhere and you don’t need to look closely to realise he’s the lost genius of a generation and beyond.
Sin offers rousing bluesy lounge before again the album surprisingly twists into a Buddy Holly sound with Letting Me Out. Is The Sky The Limit is a serious contender for song of the album. It’s hard to listen to this and not think of Kurt Cobain. The parallels are there between the artists, not just musically. It has the feel of that Nirvana Unplugged session – “radiate away”. At this point I’m considering Hart here is topping some Husker Du material, that bare voice, it’s almost too good.
Golden Chain goes straight into a pure Husker Du sound and it does so at exactly the right time on the album. Hart has pulled you in and now delivers a song that could easily sit on New Day Rising or Flip Your Wig. No better testament possible.
Then, when it’s all just too good So From Heaven shows a weak link. Sounding somewhat like Digsy’s Diner from Definitely Maybe ah well, let’s forgive this, still not a bad song at all mind. Shine Shine Shine in contrast sounds like The Beatles and quickly sets the album straight again with a Pop smile. It Isn’t Love is again great if less remarkable than the sheer quality the album can and has already reached.
Husker Du were a band before widespread use of sampling. War In Heaven has the blend of Husker Du do Public Service Broadcasting. Those psychedelic post punk loops, washing guitars, the sound of time going forwards and backwards as the album adds another string to its mighty fine bow. At time of writing this link has 48 views / listens on YouTube. What’s wrong with the world? Overlooked isn’t the word.
Glorious and It Was A Most Disturbing Dream fill out The Argument with more Pop charm and Beatles-esque meandering. Underneath The Apple Tree wouldn’t be out of place soundtracking Dennis Potters The Singing Detective, another twist when you thought Hart had played all of his cards already. The song The Argument is dark and wavering. Experimental and stark. It sits oddly but powerfully. Run For The Wilderness gallops away as the album comes to a close. For Those Too High Aspiring shuts the door on a remarkable, unexpected return to form.
Arguably The Argument (the album) is too long but that’s a ridiculous nit-pick as arguably it could be much longer and I’d have no complaints at all. Grant Hart emerges finally from the Husker Du shadow with an album that should be in everyones music collection. A sound of pure release and art. Just don’t file under easy listening…