I’m going to let you in on a little secret. You’ve read this far, you deserve to know a little something about me. In this case, this is something that might ruin my credibility as a music critic and (self-proclaimed) pop culture guru.
I never really got into Husker Du.
I know they are important, especially to the music that I grew up loving and it’s not like I think they are bad or anything. It’s hard to explain but they don’t really stay in my brain. I may listen to an album and think “Hey, that was pretty good.” and then I won’t think about them again for a year or two.
Now here’s where I may border on musical blasphemy for some.
Bob Mould’s other band, Sugar, put out an album that not only has stayed with me but is easily one of my favorite albums of the 90s, probably within my top ten albums of that decade.
I can really hear the music critics coming out of the woods with pitchforks and torches. “It’s bad enough that you can’t get into Husker Du but he likes File Under Easy Listening better than Copper Blue? BURN THIS MAN AT THE STAKE!”
But this is my list of 52 albums that changed MY life, not theirs. File Under Easy Listening is not only one of the best power pop albums ever made, I have the thing memorized but let’s start at the beginning.
My love affair with Sugar started by accident. I caught the video for “Gee Angel” on Much Music. The song grabbed me from the first chord. There was just this wall of sound but it was incredibly catchy at the same time. I quickly grabbed a VHS tape and did the math on when that evening Much Music would loop back to this video (at the time Much ran in 6 or maybe 8-hour loops). I set the VCR up, added and an extra hour before I thought the video would air and an extra hour after I thought the video would air just to make sure I got it.
This what you had to do before Youtube kids.
I snagged it and became enamored with that one song. It was so good, I would have to break my three song rule (for a time, I had a rule that I must like at least three songs on an album before I purchased it). I went to the BMV Music Club catalog for that month, File Under Easy Listening was there and luckily enough it had the caption “Includes Gee Angel” so I made sure I bought the right album. An agonizing three or four weeks later it arrived and went directly on to my CD player hoping that what I heard on “Gee Angel” wasn’t a fluke.
File Under Easy Listening, from start to finish, is a tight, well put together album that still holds up over twenty years later. It’s an album that I will always suggest people listen to, regardless of their musical preference because it has something for everyone.
It has that wall of guitar sound. Tracks like “The Gift,” Company Book,” “Gee Angel,” just rocket out of the speakers.
But it also has great lyrics that range from great pop songs to almost ballads. “Explode and Make Up,” the final track on the album manages to capture the fury and passion of a relationship that is in the throes of ending. Or at least that’s what I thought the song was about.
I’ve often gotten curious about lyrics and album creation where I wanted to know everything about the album. What it was about, who it was about. What break up inspired this song, why the cover looked like it did. For some reason, I never wanted to know much more about Sugar or File Under Easy Listening. The album felt like it was a soundtrack for my life. That Bob Mould knew what I liked in terms of music, mixed everything in a bowl and poured out this album for me
It’s also the reason why, for years afterward, I never made the connection between Husker Du and Sugar and it may be why I’ve never really tried to dig deeper into Husker Du. This album was almost perfect to me but what if the Husker Du stuff was better? Would that sully File Under Easy Listening in my head? An album that I made countless friends and girlfriends listen to. So maybe it’s a totally weird, mental block that stops me. The weird part is, I’ve gone on to listen to Bob Mould’s solo stuff that he’s recorded since Sugar and I can get into that as well.
As an adult, File Under Easy Listening has stood the test of time for me. The songs I loved as a teenager are still as good as they ever were but maybe my maturity helped me catch up to some of the songs I didn’t like as much. “Granny Cool” and “Company Book” were songs that I always thought were good but felt they weren’t as good as the rest of the album. As an adult, those songs have grown on me, especially “Company Book” which has become one of my favorites over the years.
File Under Easy Listening is an album everyone should listen to. Fans of good rock music, fans of good pop music, fans of punk music, there is something for everyone on this album.
Next week, we go from the power of Sugar to something a bit quieter and one of the best albums to ever come out of Canada.