Husker Du – Zen Arcade

If you don’t already have your headphones in, best get ready:Today’s album is Husker Du’s Zen Arcade:

For the not-quite-VH1 Behind The Music version of the album:



RC: Husker Du – Zen Arcade

I actually don’t know anything about this band. I feel like an idiot as apparently people refer to it as an album that influenced them, but I have never actually heard of Husker Du until Record Club

After Listening:
As far as music goes, I can definitely hear where the influence for some bands had sprung up from this band. You can also tell that they spent some time trying to mimick the sound of others.  They have an interesting spectrum of tempo and a much better grasp on chord progression than many bands within the various genres they are listed in.
They’re not the best group I’ve ever heard. It hasn’t kicked my hypothetical d**k off.

Favorite track/tracks:
Broken Heart, Broken Home – It’s a fast tempo clusterf**k of chaos.
Pride – There are some screaming songs that I absolutely love. This is one.

Least favorite track/tracks:
Dreams Reoccurring – I really don’t like mini experimental songs if there is no reason for them to exist in an album. I am perfectly fine if the album is supposed to be a work of experimental art, but if I listen to 2-3 rock/punk songs in the beginning I hardly expect a song like this.
Hare Krsna – I never thought I could hate a tambourine. Thanks, Husker Du.

Overall (1-5 stars):   3
I didn’t mind listening to it, but it’s not something that I would play to someone and go “Listen to these lyrics man! They changed my life!”… Probably because I didn’t get any of the lyrics… I know there were some but I just heard syllables.


Husker Du – Zen Arcade: 2.5 stars

Precon: No idea. I’ll take a guess and say they’re the American version of Kraftwerk.

Favorite Track: Newest Industry
Least Favorite: Reoccuring Dreams

Oh jeez 23 tracks.
Phew, it’s punk. 23 tracks shouldn’t take more than 45 minutes.
Wait, is it punk? Experimental punk?
I’m getting a Bad Religion vibe on a lot of songs.
They switch it up quite a bit. There are the experimental tracks of course, like Hare Krsna and Tooth Fairy, but even the more straightforward songs vary.
14 minute end track nooooooo…well, I was actually digging parts of it until the screeching feedback.
An epically sprawling album. I like the effort that went into this. Some of the songs I could do without, but they still add to the manic energy that builds up throughout. Those drums definitely had me bouncing my knees, and there were some memorable, if a little generic, guitar riffs. The closer ends up being more annoying than cathartic and unfortunately ends the album on a sour note. Reoccuring Dream? More like a nightmare.

Magic the Gathering Card: “Recurring Nightmare”


Husker Do-Zen Arcade

Pre-Concevied Notions-I think I used to get these guys confused with A-Ha when I was little, or with a country band, I’m not sure.  I do know that I used to have a postcard from a friend who went to, I think it was Denmark, when I was in London.  I’ve never really known what to associate this band with.  I know I’ve heard the name before, but after reading just the initial paragraph of the Wikipedia summary, I should state, I’m not really sure if I’m in the mood for this today.

As Listening:

Indecision Time is the perfect combination of everything I dislike in music.  Thank goodness it’s only a little more than 2 minutes long.
Hare Krsna-makes me feel like I’m being brainwashed in the worst way possible. The distorted, repetitive vocal, the punk yodeling, yeah, I’m so not in the mood for this today.
Beyond The Threshold-For the life of me, I can’t figure out why these guys sound so angry.  It must be all the snow in Minnesota
What’s Going On?-oh my word, is that a recognizable beat pattern that the drum is setting? Ah I knew it was too good to last. This one sounds like something that Smashing Pumpkins listened to before writing “1979”.
Standing By The Sea-Wait, a melody?  What’s that doing on here, this must be a mistake
Somewhere-I don’t hate this.  Maybe I’m finally on the upswing of the album. It sounds like a Sargent Pepper version of a punk song, without that annoying lyrical content.
Pink Turns To Blue-Ok, I actively like this one, I’ll give credit when credit is due
Monday Will Never Be the Same- oh piano, how I’ve missed you, but it really just made me want to listen to this:

After Listening-What I didn’t know was that “Indecision Time” was going to be the beginning of the descent down the angry rabbit hole. It’s possible that I would rather listen to Queensryche than ever hear this album again, or at least the beginning of this album, again. It’s some sort of hybrid punk metal monstrosity that I’m sure jazzed up a bunch of whiny suburban teenagers in the 80s who were oh so misunderstood.  Please.  I was literally checking back every song to see how close I was to this finishing. I had to go back to the Wikipedia to make sure that there wasn’t something that I was missing and I found this quote about the album:

“Zen Arcade tells the story of a young boy who runs away from an unfulfilling home life, only to find the world outside is even worse.” Oh BOO!

So yeah, a bunch of sad, misunderstood teens thought this was their story.  Yikes.  To quote Andrew Clark “Everyone’s home life is unsatisfying.  If it wasn’t people would stay with their parents forever”.  I don’t ever want to hear anyone complain about any of my picks being “whiny” ever again.  The whole thing feels like musical jambalaya if the ingredients were “Dark Side of the Moon” “Tommy” and “London Calling” and then if there was angry screaming added on top like sour cream.  I suppose the good news is that no song is longer than 4 minutes, so at least the self-indulgence only came from the thematic nature of the album.

For the first half of this album, I’d give it -0.5
For the second half, I’d give it a 2.5, so it rounds out to 2

Favorites: Pink Turns to Blue
Least Favorite: the one-two punch of Indecision Time and Hare Krsna


Preconceived Notions: Aside from the overused pun of Husker Don’t-which is even referenced in the head of this email thread, I have no real certainty of this band.  I have heard of them in similar circles to Black Flag…though always with the caveat of someone saying “not as good as…”  So I know we’re in for some punk – quality to be determined.

After Listening:  This is the type of music that’s a lot more fun to play, as opposed to listen to.   I could see me and a few friends with some Schlitz or some Coors Light setting up in my garage in the summer and thrashing out for hours in similar disjointed fashion.  Heck, been there done that already in my life, it’s good times.  Combine that element with the terrible audio recording quality that sounds like a 4 track with a warped tape inside it (the drums sound particularly terrible like muffled farts)…and you have to hand it to Husker Du, certainly all the elements are there for evoking up the garage punk rock image.   And you can at points on this album genuinely appreciate the energy, these guys are clearly in the hardcore vain-plenty of screaming to go with moments of “singing”.  It’s an attempt to be in your face and properly sloppy.  Husker tries at moments to switch up the  formula with songs like “Never talking to you again (acoustic guitar) “One Step (clean piano) ”“Hare Krsna (Kishna chant) ” , and the closing track “Reoccurring Dreams (instrumental)”. But let’s be honest, there’s no need for 70 mins of this album.  Any strengths individual moments might have are dulled down by the overall similarity of many songs, and putrid production values that blend the whole thing together.  I didn’t even have a clue this was a “concept” album about a runaway until I re-read some of the wiki after listening.  So there’s a narrative communication failure there as well- although to be fair you can just generally assume all of this style of punk is about some sort of angst – no great need to personalize it.

Favorite Tracks: “Dreams Reoccurring & Reoccurring Dreams”  – It’s not often that I appreciate instrumentals that have sort of subpar musicianship on them, but with these two tracks the band was trying to switch things up and so that’s worth the effort. Clearly they’re attempts to influence the mood, and give pause within the narrative of the album which displays a higher level focus absent in a lot of punk.
“What’s Going on” – A particularly jagged and disorienting piece….a decent guitar solo, slightly different guitar tones in general than on the rest of the album,  and a screaming chorus style vocal line that mimic a mental breakdown perfectly.  A piece that if it wasn’t buried inside of 23 tracks, I’d have probably gotten that it was specifically created to deal with the confusion of a single character.

Least Favorite Tracks:   Rather than rail on anything in particular let’s just say that out of…. “Broken Home, Broken Heart”,“Charted Trips”,  “Beyond the Threshold”, “Pride”, “The Biggest Lie”, “Masochism World”, “Pink Turns to Blue”, “Newest Industry”, “Whatever, and “Turn on the News”…we could easily lose half, if not all of them from this record- and nothing would be lost.

In fact if this record had a playlist like

1.)     Something I Learned Today
2.)     Never Talking to You again
3.)     Dream Reoccurring
4.)     Indecision Time
5.)     Hare Krnsa
6.)     I’ll Never Forget You
7.)     What’s going on
8.)     Standing by the Sea
9.)     One step at a Time
10.) Monday will never be the same
11.)  The Tooth Fairy and The Princess

While still having some down moments, would flow a lot better to my ears and encompass anything musically the band might possibly have to say. In fact I might even be tempted to give it something like a…

Overall 3.5 (my list)…but I guess really 2.75  I can excuse the crappy production as a mix of style and the 80’s, I can also excuse the repetitive tracks and playing – I’m sure it has a genre niche and like I said it’s fun to actually play.  I can understand all of that-but it doesn’t mean I have to really like it.  Taking the record as a whole is both a strength and a weakness….as a whole you don’t have to examine too closely what contributes to the energy on this, but also as a whole you have to deal with the feeling at the end of thing that they wasted a good deal of your time.   I encourage anyone to give it a full listen and then to chop the heck out of it-if you cut down on your own personal drudge it may indeed be possible to enjoy this thing.   Or better yet, get yourself a guitar and a garage, and some beer…and make your own music.


Husker Du – Zen Arcade

Preconceptions: This is one of my curiosity picks. I always hear about these dudes, and some people go bonkers bananas about them, and this album in particular. I used to mix their name up with another hardcore band called Shai Halud, but I got that straight a few years ago and I’m getting along really well nowadays at keeping it that way. It’s a struggle, but hey, I get by…. one day at a time. What else can I do?

After Listening: This album is truly epic and self-indulgent, which are two things I don’t necessarily hold against a band—as a couple of my previous picks demonstrate. In the case of Husker Du, my feelings are mixed—at least for now. There are songs and sections of this album that I really dig a lot, and overall, I really like the sort of punk these guys deliver, and I appreciate the under-produced yet listenable quality—I think the cool kids call it Lo-Fi. Even still, I found myself wandering off a bit while listening to certain parts. However, I think this could become a more solid album for me with a few more listens. I might hit up my friends for a copy.

Also, what’s with me picking albums with 14 minute final tracks, huh? Crazy. I’ll tell ya, that’s some wild stuff. That being said, The Battle of Hampton Roads is a far superior song to Recurring Dreams.

Favorites: Honestly I was keeping notes by track number, but I got off track because of a couple of short songs that I mixed up with longer songs—bottom line, I can’t decipher which songs were my faves and which were my least. Sorry folks. Maybe I’ll send an update if I can figure it out.

Overall: 3.5 stars (at least for now)

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Record Club began in the cold, dank, snowmageddon scene that was New England of January 2011. We’re probably no different than you. We all work in cubicles, some in smaller, less private cubicles than others; that just means we have to be even sneakier about how we listen to our music. But we have to listen to our music, mostly as a way of saving our own personal sanity. Sometimes our opinions lead us to debates that may or may not be published in their entirety on this site, but I can promise you’ll at least get a glimpse of the way our minds work. The main goal is to find new music we like or find old music that we didn’t know we liked. Sometimes we succeed, sometimes it’s a total and complete disaster. After our ears have rejoiced or stopped bleeding we try something else. This is our pattern, every Tuesday and Thursday. Sometimes, when the club isn’t officially in session, just to keep everyone on their toes, we throw in a theme day. We’re beginning to run low on our original list, so please, if you have albums that you’d like us to review or themes that you’d like to see our playlist of, feel free to contribute. After all, we’re all in this together once we punch the time clock. So if you’re busy (or just plain bored) lurking in your cubicle as you read this join in. After all, life wasn’t meant to be lived staring at a computer screen. I guarantee you, it’s at least more fun when you plug the headphones in.

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