Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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No rock style derives from one source, and that goes double for those that are less styles than marketing devices or headline shorthand--like grunge, the muddy guitar barrage that went public on the doomed, songful genius of Nirvana's Kurt Cobain. Nevertheless, only one set of forefathers got the Nirvana idea completely right: another power trio, Minneapolis's mythic Hüsker Dü. Boasting two guys who could sing and write, pop-friendly drummer Grant Hart and guitarmeister Bob Mould, Hüsker Dü generated a headlong energy closer to classic punk than to the metal melodrama of such Seattle volume movers as Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains. And since most of their albums were recorded on the cheap and sound it--seminal, tuneful, manic, grand, but muddier than need be--their third major-label release, the six-years-posthumous live The Living End (Warner Bros.), is a sonic boon.

Too many of the album's 24 tracks come from the relatively flat two-LP finale, Warehouse: Songs and Stories, but even that material gathers heat and bite in these concert-forged versions--this late in their career their sound man could afford to record their ferocious shows right. And although anyone who owns the oeuvre (now reissued on Rhino) will own all but three of the songs on this 77-minute epic, anyone who owns the oeuvre won't pass up the chance to hear Mould rocket off into uncharted sectors of the void.

Fast Cuts: Because guitar chaos takes longer to sort itself out than more discreet forms of popular songcraft, three of my favorite current examples were released in late 1993. The Afghan Whigs' Gentlemen (Elektra) sets the painful confessions of an ass man against a wall of noise as thick and spiky as Nirvana's. On Les Thugs' As Happy as Possible (Sub Pop), French punk posers go anthemic. And Archers of Loaf's Icky Mettle (Alias) is bent pop for collegiate types wary of wearing out their Pavement CDs.

Playboy, Apr. 1994

Mar. 1994 May 1994