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Zen Arcade

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iTunes Review

Following the progress of the 1983 EP Metal Circus, Hüsker Dü released Zen Arcade, a double-LP concept album about a boy who leaves home and enters a dangerous world. It's Quadrophenia for the next generation. It has stood the test of time as one of the '80s indie rock scene's greatest achievements, working past its hardcore punk roots to include a chilling acoustic track ("Never Talking to You Again"), pastiches of surreal sound ("Hare Krsna," "Reoccurring Dreams"), and tuneful punk anthems ("Turn on the News," "What's Going On," "Something I Learned Today"). The advantage of one band having two formidable singers and songwriters—guitarist Bob Mould and drummer Grant Hart—meant there was no let-up in the material's quality. The desperation that seeps into tracks such as "Pride" and "I'll Never Forget You" is enhanced by the real pressures the band members felt as they recorded and mixed the whole album in 85 hours of studio time. This is hard indie rock performed in a pressure cooker.

Customer Reviews

Essential for All!

This is easily one of my favorite albums of all time! It is a flawless masterpiece of music and captures what punk rock is truly about. I find myself constantly listening to this album in its entirety because it's just so engaging. There is not a weak track on here, but some of my personal favorite tracks are: Chartered Trips, Whatever, and Turn On the News. However, if you are here reading this, then don't have any hesitation to buy the whole album now. Individually the tracks are great, but when you can just relax and listen to this whole thing, your mind will be blown!


this is my favorite album by husker du. its just so perfect. its angry, its deep, its passionate

Their tension, our gain

Hüsker Dü's sprawling 4-sided epic Zen Arcade came along at the time when hardcore was officially dead, but not everyone knew it yet. Acoustic ballads, Krsna chants, and piano parts were not supposed to be part of a band whose hardcore-like live debut featured 17 songs in about 20 minutes. But Zen Arcade was ahead of it's time (not to worry - time caught up with the Hüskers later, during their major label run). Though they are intermixed the listener starts to notice that there are Bob songs and there are Grant songs (easily determined by who is singing). Not taking sides here - both writers pen plenty of personal anguish, suffering, and political strife - and sing in harmony on choruses. But if I had to make a short list of favorites the nod would go to the drummer with brilliant contributions like Masochism World, Pink Turns to Blue, and Turn On The News. That said - it doesn't get much better than the Bob trio of Beyond the Threshold, Pride, and I'll Never Forget You for heartfelt angst and despair. The long strange trip at the end, Reoccurring Dreams, is actually a fast-paced space jam with a structure that lets Mould venture way out into the Flying V and Fender Twin stratosphere and then suddenly reels him back and regroups. It's hard to find even a mediocre track on this one even as it turns 30. And it's not as if reading about Hüsker Dü's inner turbulence throughout their existence makes this record any musically better. Rather it just makes you appreciate it more. Top 10.


Formed: 1979 in Minneapolis, MN

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '70s, '80s

Hüsker Dü and R.E.M. were the two American post-punk bands of the '80s that changed the direction of rock & roll. R.E.M. became a superstar band; Hüsker Dü never was more than a cult favorite. Nevertheless, their albums between 1981 and 1987 have proven remarkably influential; they provided the sonic blueprint for the roaring punk-pop hybrid that crossed over into the mainstream in the early '90s. Not only did they shape the sound of the music, they shaped the way independent bands made the transition...
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