Hüsker Dü - Savage Young Dü

A 69 track box set of the trailblazing Twin Cities' alt.rock trio's early manoeuvers

Released Nov 22nd, 2017 via Rough Trade / By Erick Mertz
Hüsker Dü - Savage Young Dü Very few musical opinions would I offer with the follow up, am I wrong? So, here it is, I’ve never connected with Hüsker Dü’s early work. Am I wrong?

I have settled on a simple answer: hell yeah, I was wrong. Neglecting the fledgling Minneapolis trio’s trove of hardcore punk material has been a sublime over sight on my part. Quite fortunately though, time always seems to be on the side of new musical baptism, and this new three disc reissue makes atonement for such transgressions easy.

Captured on Savage Young Dü is a slice of the band’s early career catalog spanning from 1979 to 1983, most of it courtesy of Terry Katzman, their former soundman. Out of this three-year era comes long awaited digital access to a few 7” singles, new versions of seminal albums (an alternate take on 1981 debut Land Speed Record and a re-mastered, Everything Falls Apart from 1983) in addition to demos, alt-takes, live versions and unreleased songs.

Just describing this box set is enough to take your breath away.

Then you put Savage Young Dü on the stereo and it’s not just your breath that’s stolen. These recordings are a blistering reminder to listeners that Hüsker Dü, before their aggressive takes on art rock (New Day Rising and Zen Arcade) and what would pass for mainstream label rock (Candy Apple Gray) were a band that had an aggressive take on everything put before them. When Husker Du set out to record 1982's Zen Arcade they wanted to move onto a type of music beyond the restrictions of hardcore. It is difficult, in hindsight, to see listen to these recordings and imagine them as fitting a description like restricted. This is a landmark band in its sharpest hardcore punk form, playing its most furious songs, settling for fast, sometimes sloppy instrumentation under lyrics that could be described as glib, or opaque. So much for the surface view though.

I won’t tire you with a song-by-song deconstruction of Savage Young Dü when it would be far more beneficial to examine the set in chunks. I’m not a big fan of live recordings; the ones contained here are especially distant, rough recordings of messy performances. The B-sides and demo collections are filled with some undiscovered gems, especially those showing their dabbling in art rock. Look no further than the new takes on Land Speed Record and Everything Falls Apart for what will draw collectors and casual fans in. These two albums are what divines an air of essential around this ambitious set.

Even if you have these albums on heavy rotation, they will come off as fresh and revitalized, harkening back to that previous statement about restrictions. As songwriters, Bob Mould and Grant Hart were true to what hardcore punk had been (at least up to that point). We’re reminded that in 1983, the hardcore and punk scenes were filled with restrictions, ethical and political restrictions. Coming around to whether or not connecting with early Hüsker Dü was an oversight, I suppose what’s missing from my worldview was a gratitude for their adherence, that their lush, artsy forays later on in their careers were built on something canonical.

Hüsker Dü fanatic or not, this set is worthy of extensive exploration. And, as if the digital versions of Savage are not enough, the physical LP/CD sets will include a thick photographic repository of images and essays about those crucial, early days.