Never Heard of 'Em
Never Heard of 'Em: Hüsker Dü's Zen Arcade
Anna Minard claims to "know nothing about music." For this column, we force her to listen to random records by artists considered to be important by music nerds.
First, a digression: ROCK DOTS (oh, the assonance! So poetic!). Or: Röck Döts?! Also known as a "heavy metal umlaut," röck döts are the dots sitting atop a letter "gratuitously or decoratively" in a band name, according to Wikipedia—e.g., Blue Öyster Cult, Mötley Crüe, etc. (Is anyone else craving the impossible-to-masticate candies called Dots now?) Because of their röck döts, I'd always assumed that Hüsker Dü were a tacky metal band. Ööps! Turns out they're hardcore, punk, or thrash—hardcore is a kind of punk, right? And thrash is a kind of metal... The music taxonomy eludes me yet again. What's important is that they were influential and not commercially successful—catnip to music nerds' little noses.
I started listening to Zen Arcade after the interwebs decreed it in our blog poll. I walked around the city buying groceries, dodging rush-hour pedestrian mobs, baking a little in the late sun. I did not love it; I did not hate it. It was yelly, but I'm used to giving that a chance now.
Shortly, a song, halfway done already, climbed through the mess of city and snared itself in some feelings that had been building a hidden nest in my stomach. "Never Talking to You Again" is straightforward, quietly defiant, and less than two minutes long. "There are things that I'd like to say/But I'm never talking to you again/There's things I'd like to phrase some way/But I'm never talking to you again..." A resigned-but-empowering estrangement anthem? Yes, please! When it was over, I pressed rewind. Then I accidentally-on-purpose listened to it on repeat for an hour-long bus ride, mesmerized.
I did eventually listen to the whole thing, and while I kept wishing I had better headphones or better speakers (then I read that the production is just kind of shit), and some of it was annoying—"Hare Krsna" = someone sharpening their jingle bells on a whetstone wrapped in cellophane?—I liked how much variation there was across a long album. Apparently, it's a concept album about a suburban kid in a mental hospital, but I couldn't really understand most of the words.
I end with music news you should write on a Post-It so you don't lose: Former frontman Bob Mould is coming to town (solo) on September 18! You heard it here first! Or third or something.
In honor of "Never Talking," I give this a "my new favorite ohrwurm" out of 10.