Another much underestimated era in rock music history is the 1980s. Michael Jackson, Duran Duran and Madonna were dominating the charts with a slick studio-derived product that offered more surface gloss than true substance With the burgeoning influence of MTV moving from innovation in the early part of the decade to sterile consolidation by the end, rock/pop appeared to be as predetermined, processed and expertly packaged as the product of any prior equivalent period – the early 1960s, the mid 1970s.
Pretty much devoid of any real meaning though.
But, as is always the case, underneath the surface outstanding music was still being made.
One of these artists was the Minneapolis band, Hüsker Dü, led by Bob Mould and Grant Hart. Deriving their fericious sound from 1970s punk rock but mixing this with a finely tuned pop sensibility, Hüsker Dü were The Buzzcocks of their day.
As is so often the case, this hyper-talented band burned out and the individuals began solo careers. Bob Mould began his with one of the finest ‘singer-songwriter’ records ever made by someone who would not have dreamed of being classified among the 1970s variant of that style.
“Workbook” is simply a gem, from the opening instrumental “Sunspots” (which I have heard used as linking music on NPR!), through a series of bitter/reflective songs emotionally based around the dissolution of Hüsker Dü. My favorite, if not necessarily the best, is “Heartbreak A Stranger”.
A complete gorgeous melody played softly on electric guitar and evocative lyrics. It never fails to move me and belongs to the very finest of all rock songs.
Again, another largely forgotten and ignored record – I always wonder how many more there are out there just waiting to be heard!