Essential New Music: Hüsker Dü’s “Savage Young Dü”

Hüsker Dü’s historical trajectory follows a rather neat three-act arc: four years of woodshedding over a series of singles, one live and one studio record; three top-notch albums on SST during hardcore’s golden age; and two more on Warner Bros. at the start of punk’s crossover to the major labels. Savage Young Dü chronicles the band’s inception and development, from its very earliest recording sessions in 1979 to just before 1983’s Metal Circus EP.

If ever there were a punk band whose early years were ripe for archiving, it’s Hüsker Dü. From the start, as this collection makes clear, Bob Mould, Grant Hart and Greg Norton knew what they were about: a love for aggressive noise in perfect balance with a romantic (not sentimental) impulse. It took the band the better part of four years to find its cruising altitude, and one of the many pleasures of this set lies in the way the chronological presentation of studio and rehearsal tapes, live and practice sessions, charts the gradual acceleration of Hüsker Dü’s performance style into the “land speed record” the trio achieves on its first full-length of the same name. It’s easy to hear why D. Boon and the Minutemen, who released the Hüskers’ debut on their New Alliance label, were such big fans: Speed, precision and heart were the common ingredients of both bands’ aesthetics.

As impressive as Savage Young Dü is as a musical release—69 remastered songs over nearly three hours—it’s equally impressive as a historical document. A comprehensive, deeply intelligent essay by Erin Osmon and meticulous session notes by Hüsker archivist Paul Hilcoff place the band in its proper historical and artistic contexts. This is the star treatment, well-executed, given to a band whose music eminently deserves it. One of 2017’s essential releases, no matter how you cut it.

—Eric Waggoner