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Grant Hart – The Argument

Husker Du exploded out of the twin cities in the early 1980s and the world was never the same. In Bob Mould and Grant Hart the band contained the Lennon and McCartney of hardcore and like the Velvet Underground everyone who came into contact with them formed another band. Sadly they imploded in the late eighties in a toxic mix of irresolvable creative and personal tensions between Mould and Hart. Tragically this period saw the bands manager David Savoy take his own life and Hart’s various addictions expand. The rest is history and while Mould’s solo career has been more high profile and successful it is good to see Hart back on top form. Many would argue he was the melodic core of Husker Du and the songs contained on this new double album The Argument do echo past glories.

There is a big concept behind Hart’s new album which entails reference to William Burroughs take on Milton’s Paradise lost and Adam and Eve’s fall from Eden. Frankly for this reviewer concept albums tend to register very high on the irritation register but to be fair to Hart whatever his intent on the records backdrop he has produced a lengthy album containing some glorious songs packed with melody some of which have a distinctively Bowie style flavour. The one that impacts immediately is ‘Morning Star’ a wonderful piece of indie pop, commercial enough to be a single and demonstrating from the start that Hart is back on form. The electronica of ‘If we have the will’ could have happily appeared on Lodger and its swirling organ backdrop is entrancing. A clear highlight is the song ‘I will never see my home’ and regretful ballad where the limitations of Harts voice actually suit a very dark theme of portraying Satan as a lost figure cast away from his native home. There are lighter moments not least the best song Buddy Holly never wrote the pounding ‘Letting me out’ and the very beautiful ‘Is the sky the limit’ with its slow steady build up to a big finish. The album is a double with 20 tracks but on occasions some judicious editing would not gone amiss. ‘Awake arise’ for example is the sort of dour track that all concept albums suffer from as their creators get far too involved with the source material. ‘Underneath the Apple-tree’ is just plain daft with its 1920s Tin Pan Alley feel and twee affectations. The jaunty ‘Shine, shine, shine’ has also yet to impress. There are however enough goodies on offer here to counter the weaker moments. The urban blues of ‘So far from heaven’ has a Beatles feel to it circa Abbey Road , while Dylan influences populate the excellent closer ‘For those too high aspiring’.

The Argument is an ambitious and often theatrical album which sees its creator literally pouring his heart into its construction. It is a fascinating and largely well executed album that should lead music critics to adjust the scales between him and Bob Mould, properly recognising that Hart wasn’t a mere second string. As Hart himself recently commented ‘people seem to think they can’t like me and like Bob’s music…they have that there was this bad guy in Bob’s past who was vanquished by Bob like a dragon’. It is clear from The Argument that this particular dragon still breathes fire.

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