19. GRANT HART - THE ARGUMENT
The fact is, my love affair with Husker Du is almost entirely Grant Hart. He’s fucking amazing. Never talking to you again, Sorry somehow and Don’t wanna know if you are lonely still give me goosebumps every single time I hear them. He didn’t use aggression to convey his feelings, he was perfectly capable of letting the lyrics do the talking. I honestly can’t comprehend how my reaction would’ve been in 1984 when Zen Arcade was released and Never talking to you again starts as track 3, just Grant Hart repeating it over and over, accompanied only by some acoustic guitar tracks and Bob Mould’s backing vocals.
So while Mould (the other half of the second-most successful partnership in music history) is writing tell-all books of how things went down in Husker Du and channeling Dave Grohl’s guitar and ‘Angry Tom Hank’s’ voice, Grant Hart has uncharacteristically been busy himself and i’ve been paying attention every step of the way. Before releasing the mostly overlooked but appreciated Hot Wax back in 2009, he hadn’t done a thing for ten years. Post-Hot Wax, not only has he managed to release a double album but he’s also visited the ol’ Northcote Social Club for a gig (which I attended - it was brilliant) and had Gorman Bechard produce a successfully crowd funded documentary about his life and career.
I should clarify that I don’t particularly care for double albums, though I will confess there’s still another one in this top 20. I must have a subconscious blockade in my mind when I recognise that I’m about to listen to a double album. If I can’t commit to listening to an album in it’s entirety, then I generally will skim past it and move to something more easily consumed. I can’t think of any outside of Zen Arcade and maybe Double Nickels On The Dime that can keep my attention from start to finish, and that is mostly because those albums are linked in my mind with speed.
With that, when Hart announced a double album based on the biblical epic poem Paradise Lost, with slight references to the works of his old buddy William Burroughs, as if alarm bells weren’t going to start ringing about how indulgent The Argument would be.
Thankfully it’s more ‘theatrical’ than indulgent, though even those moments are fairly few and far between. The album is more or less business as usual for Hart post-Nova Mob, however from the synopsis of Paradise Lost that I read it appears that the album follows the story and themes quite accurately. Perhaps this is where the Burroughs influence comes in - I can’t imagine how difficult it would be to write within the constraints of a narrative without losing pacing or sounding tacky.
Hart manages to sound more like a cross between Daniel Johnston and 60’s outsider pop than ever. Thematically it sounds very similar to Johnston’s broken and jangled musics about ‘the devil and god’, but musically it has elements of Cash, glam-era Bowie, Nick Cave and Soul Asylum. Hell (pun), sometimes it even sounds like he’s channeling the low-fi sound of The Shaggs.
Not the album version (which is arguably better), but check out the chilling rendition of Is The Sky The Limit above.