Hüsker Dü, New Day Rising (1985)
When I first arrived at college in '84 and started delving into the college radio bands of the time, I immediately gravitated towards R.E.M. and the Replacements; Minneapolis' Hüsker Dü were a harder sell at first. I found their sonic assault way too intimidating. But over time, and with the benefit of gradual steps towards a marginally less abrasive aesthetic (albeit without ever losing the blast-furnace guitars), I became more and more enamored of their work, and remain a huge fan today. Indeed, the only reason I listen to them less than I might otherwise is because they're one of the last remaining bands to have never undergone a digital remastering regimen, leaving the albums a little too thin and bass-shy for present-day sensibilities. (In contrast, Mould's Copper Blue, with post-Hüsker Dü power trio Sugar, harnesses his raging energy and subtle pop gifts into an indie rock monster that still sounds phenomenal 27 years later.)
1985's New Day Rising was the album that first won me over, particularly Hart's more pop-oriented contributions. "Books About UFOs," with an unlikely, rollicking piano accompanying Hart's playful lyrics beneath Mould's wall-of-sound guitars, is simply one of the greatest indie pop/rock songs ever; and Hart's no less infectious break-up anthem "Terms of Psychic Warfare" isn't far behind.
Mould has his share of great moments here as well, most notably the catchy but ferocious "I Apologize," one of the band's definitive tracks, the zippy "Folk Lore," and the more complex "Celebrated Summer."
For better or worse, there is still some of the noisier fare on which they built their reputation (the repetitive self-titled opening track is something I invariably skip), but plenty of hints of the more grown-up straightforward rock that would come to dominate later work. Personally, I'd combine about half of this with half of the slightly more polished follow-up, Flip Your Wig, and end up with a near-perfect album, but this remains a joyous ode to sonic overload. Is it something I recommend to friends with a more mainstream-oriented palate? Of course not. But if you want something to test the volume limits of your stereo that will get your blood racing and wake you the fuck up, there are few albums like it.
Here's an audio-only "Books About UFOs":