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Zen Arcade

4.8 out of 5 stars 107 customer reviews

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Zen Arcade
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Audio CD, October 25, 1990
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$18.35 & FREE Shipping on orders over $49. Details Only 15 left in stock (more on the way). Ships from and sold by Amazon.com. Gift-wrap available.

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Product Description

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Genre: Popular Music
Media Format: Compact Disk
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Release Date: 15-JAN-1990

Amazon.com

They didn't yet have terms like "alternative rock" when Minneapolis's Husker Du made their mark as one of the 1980's most influential bands. With two skilled songwriters--guitarist Bob Mould and drummer Grant Hart--the genre-bending trio (bassist Greg Norton completed the lineup) juxtaposed hardcore punk speed and aggression with pop-leaning melodies. Add their uniformly thoughtful, introspective lyrics, and you've got this stunning 1984 double-length release, a semi-concept album about youthful rites of passage. It includes such memorable tracks as Mould's "Broken Home, Broken Heart" Hart's "Never Talking to You Again," and the evocative 14-minute instrumental closer, "Reocurring Dreams." --Billy Altman
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (October 25, 1990)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: SST Records
  • ASIN: B000000LZS
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (107 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #21,994 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By ewomack TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 12, 2005
Format: Audio CD
Hüsker Dü were one of the loudest and most thrashy acts of the late 1970s and early 1980s. Then they decided to move away from pure hard metal thrashy rock into hard rock and pop. This didn't exactly thrill some fans (Bob Mould got booed more than once when he stepped out on stage with an acoustic guitar), but the decision led to this album which arguably remains the band's masterpiece.

First released as a double album in 1984, the music ranges from very heavy thrash rock to delicate piano numbers and almost everything in between. The all acoustic number "Never Talking To You Again" sits between the hard rocking songs "Broken Home, Broken Heart" and the incredible "Chartered Trips". "Monday Will Never be the Same" and "One Step at a Time" contain simple and mellow piano/synth music. "Indecision Time", "I'll Never Forget You", "Beyond the Threshold", and "Pride" all thrash cathartically hard with abrasively screamed lyrics. It sounds like the Hüsker Dü of the past. The creepy "The Tooth Fairy And the Princess" approaches psychedelia with its backward tracks and whispered vocals. Not to mention the sleigh bell-laden "Hare Krishna". "Newest Industry" and "Turn on The News" sound like the Hüsker Dü to come. "Zen Arcade" definitely represented a transition for the band.

On top of all that, it's a concept album (which helps explain why critics like it so much). Supposedly the story revolves around a boy who has left home and finds out that the real world sort of stinks. The album does have a somewhat happy ending, though, despite the less than happy lyrics. "Reoccurring Dreams" signifies that the boy's troubles were all just a dream. So we're rewarded with an amazing 14-minute jam session. Good deal.
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Format: Audio CD
...Whether this one is better than New Day Rising. It's a great question that should consume Husker Du fans and music historians for years to come. It's kind of like these two albums are mirror images of one another. Zen Arcade is their last hardcore album but with many of the flashes of pop brilliance to come. New Day Rising is their first post-hardcore pop album but with many traces of their old hardcore selves. Basically, Husker Du's career trajectory was like climbing a musical Mount Everest and both albums sit on the summit.
Adding to the feeling of transition is the fact this really plays like three separate records: the first quarter is like the last great hardcore EP, the second quarter is some kind of overly dramatic death punk. The second half is the first great post-hardcore record. Its like they bury a genre and create a new one all in one place.
I think the tendency is to rate Zen Arcade higher, both because it is more challenging and more likely to give you indie cred. It also came first, by which right it outsrips is successor in musical influence. But at the times that I think that New Day Rising is better, my thinking tends to revolve around three songs on this album: Beyond the Threshold, Pride and I'll Never Forget You. Simply put, these are not easy songs to listen to. Some of the times I listen to the album, I allow it to play through and check my ears for blood during these songs. But I don't apologize for sometimes blowing past these songs and making the listening a more pleasant experience on the order of listening to New Day Rising. These songs are critical because they take you to the bottom of the abyss that the album evokes. In other words, they are the album's emotional core.
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Format: Audio CD
Zen Arcade
Not everyone will ever appreciate or understand this record. Those who do have a life-changing experience.
I was first introduced to Husker Du through New Day Rising, the LP that followed this. I was mightily impressed by the songwriting on NDR, and I wanted to see the creative point from which this band started. Zen Arcade probably outstrips New Day Rising. "Turn on the News" is routinely cited as "their finest moment." It's a great song, but it's not all there was to Husker Du -- this band has subtleties that most punk rock groups do not. You might find it interesting, for example, to note that "Monday Will Never Be the Same" is a slowed-down piano transcription of the riff from "Newest Industry." The band experiments with sound -- few hardcore bands I know of ever thought to use a piano in their songs -- and their arrangements are superb. Bob Mould is an excellent guitar player, and any solo he performs on this album is well worth paying attention to.
The most important trait of this album is not the influence it holds in alternative rock today -- mighty though this is. The most important trait of this album is emotion, raw, surging emotion that permeates through every track. The effect of this CD is that listening to it, you feel like you're having a conversation with a close friend, someone you know as well as yourself. Husker Du is honest, a quality that's often hard to find in today's world of glossy pop and Britney Spears and Ricky Martin. True, some recent music has been honest -- Live's "Throwing Copper" immediately comes to mind -- but most of it hasn't been this good. If you can handle intense emotion -- bursts of anger, tender touches of love -- then buy this CD. It's one of a kind.
Five stars out of five.
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