"WAREHOUSE: SONGS AND STORIES." Husker Du. Warner Bros.
A new Husker Du album is like a letter from an old friend in your hometown, full of experiences and insights you thought only you went through or felt anymore, spoken in a way that only those who grew up with similar sets of friends (or similar sets of hard-rock record collections) can share.
Soundwise, a new Husker Du album is like a blitz from the front, and the two-record "Warehouse" is no exception. In that way, this letter from home is almost in a sort of secret code, with emotions and even melodies that could easily be accessible if they weren't so cleverly disguised in a barrage of fuzzy guitars.
Like the Replacements, this Minneapolis power trio takes the catharsis of punk and moves beyond its anger to a wider range of emotion; unlike the Replacements, Husker Du doesn't bother with the traditional bratty exterior, preferring to be regular--even sober--Joes who just happen to have their amps set on 11.
The themes run toward the morose, sometimes even the morbid, though much less so in "Warehouse" than in last year's bleaker and blacker "Candy Apple Grey."
Singer/songwriters Bob Mould and Grant Hart seem to be coasting along musically with the same blend of folk, punk and '60s pop that made earlier works seem such revelations, without adding any startling new wrinkles to the mix. The exceptions are Hart's "Actual Condition," which has a rockabilly feel, and "She Floated Away," which takes their flair for folk in a Scottish-sounding direction.
But the band still has as strong a compositional sense as ever, and when it applies its muscle to an actual expression of hope the effect is just as revelatory in its generosity of spirit. The liner notes, a kind of witty shorthand self-help guide, are key in understanding Husker Du's appeal: "Revolution starts at home, preferably in the bathroom mirror." Here's a band that understands rock's final rebellious frontier: one's own heart.
In an age when even Granny likes Huey Lewis, having something like Husker Du around--something meaningful and important, but by its noise level still fairly inaccessible--helps an aging rocker keep that all-important youthful feeling of moral/aesthetic superiority without getting too self-inflated. Let's hear it for the sonic secret code.