Monday, June 4, 2012

Husker Du or Sugar?

This debate started on Mike Frame's Facebook wall. Mike wondered if he's the only person who likes Sugar better than Husker Du. This got me to thinking. I love Sugar. They were one of the best and most underrated bands of their time. But I've always considered Husker Du one of the two or three greatest bands of the entire 1980s. Moreover, Husker Du is my third favorite band of all-time, trailing only The Clash and AC/DC. Could Sugar possibly be better?

When I really break it down, it's a closer call than it seems. For starters, in Sugar's favor the sound quality of their recordings is far superior. Husker Du, as great as they were, suffered from some lackluster production on record (especially their Warner Brothers releases, with that awful mid-'80s tinny drum sound). And if we're comparing rhythm sections, Sugar wins that one going away. And probably, if I had to name the single best album that Bob Mould has ever played on, I'd go with Sugar's Copper Blue. My favorite Bob Mould song? "If I Can't Change Your Mind".

But then we turn to some points in favor of Husker Du. There was a point in my life when I never imagined I'd say this, but here goes: Husker Du is better than Sugar because Sugar didn't have Grant Hart. I'm not talking about his drumming. I'm talking about his songs. Husker Du would not have been the same without songs like "Turn On the News", "Books About UFOs", "Diane", "Pink Turns To Blue", and "It's Not Funny Anymore". I'm still more of a Mould fan, but I like the yin/yang effect that Hart brought to the group. And if Copper Blue is the single best Bob Mould record, the rest of my top five would all be Husker Du titles: Zen Arcade, New Day Rising, Metal Circus, Everything Falls Apart. And if Metal Circus doesn't count, Flip Your Whig is next. The gist of Mike's argument was that Sugar in general had a higher percentage of A-grade material versus filler/throwaways. That may be true (except for Beaster, which should have been called Bob Mould Shits On Your Eardrums). But for me, I just can't ignore the sheer volume of incredible Husker Du songs. Perhaps it's not a fair comparison since Sugar only made two proper albums and Husker Du made six or seven. But if I was going to make a compilation of both bands' best 20 songs, I think the Husker collection would be considerably better. Plus I love the variety of Husker Du's body of work - how they started out doing thrash/speed punk, then practically invented melodic hardcore, then became icons of "alternative" rock.

All things considered, I give the edge to Husker Du by a hair (off of Greg Norton's mustache). Who's with me? Who's with Mike? Speak now!

-L.R.

4 comments:

Greg said...

Hüsker Dü

Jerm said...

The Du all the way! Sugar is cute, but husker du is serious business!

lolins said...

i prefer sugar

less "alternative" than the du.

Tony Howard said...

Sugar. The sound was better, the songs were better, the musicians were better.