1985 found St Paul, Minnesota’s Hüsker Dü at their creative peak.
The initial format of the band were a howling, spitting beast of U.S. hardcore, playing as fast and loud as they could. Their first two LPs, Land Speed Record, and Everything Falls Apart, were brutal and uncompromising.
The songwriting was split between drummer, Grant Hart, and guitarist, Bob Mould. Mould was the unofficial leader of the band, with majority of songs on early releases being his creations.
Hart had a laissez faire attitude, but Mould was a much more serious individual. In 1983, the band released EP, Metal Circus, and in 1984, a double LP, the seminal Zen Arcade – both on SST Records.
A toning down of the hardcore approach allowed the melodies to nervously peek out. The songwriting had improved, with Hart’s offerings showing some serious talent with new shades of folk and psychedelia. Mould’s abrasive approach had been honed to a smoother sound. It is perhaps the contrast of musical styles that gave the band their unique sound.
In February 1985, New Day Rising was released – once again on SST. It became a blistering goodbye to their hardcore roots, which found the group heard by a wider audience as a result of positive reviews and increased airplay.
In late 1985, Flip Your Wig was unleashed and it fulfilled the promises hinted in their preceding works. The diverging songwriting elements came together to produce a remarkable record, for Flip Your Wig is a less frenetic, more rich sounding, and, generally, a more together album.
From the one-two solar plexus blow of Divide and Conquer and Games, the tender Green Eyes, and the superb Flexible Flyer, this suite of songs truly showcased the trio’s class. It was as if the band had found what they wanted to say and how to deliver it.
Granted, this is not a perfect record, the Baby Song will not make it onto many people’s compilation tapes, but as a whole it still – pushing forty years old – is a fantastic listen and a vital chapter to the story of Hüsker Dü.
When Metal Circus appeared on the radar during my musically formative years, I knew Hüsker Dü was ‘my’ band. As they regularly released new work, they raised the bar with every offering, including Flip Your Wig, of course. Their live performances were breathless. Leaving venues, I felt I had been in the ring for ten rounds such was the gripping intensity.
The friction between Hart and Mould meant that this was never going to be a long marriage but their influence on important artists that followed is difficult to ignore.