Friday, March 20, 2009

Husker Du - "Flip Your Wig" (LP Review)

"Flip Your Wig" is Husker Du's final LP on the seminal alternative label SST Records (if you listened to alternative music in the early- mid-80s, you had a lot of SST releases and respected them -- until 1987 when SST rolled over on Negativland, but that is a story for another time).

Flip Your Wig is actually the second LP Husker Du released in 1985; earlier that year they released "New Day Rising" and in 1984 they had put the world on notice with their double LP "Zen Arcade". Conventional wisdom says that their best LP is Zen Arcade, closely followed by New Day Rising. To me, Zen Arcade is an important LP with some quite good songs. New Day Rising is an exceptional LP, marred only by a few self-indulgent songs (e.g., "How To Skin a Cat"). But Flip Your Wig represents the band at its zenith: the right combination of punk power (slowing maturing since 1981's nearly unlistenable "Land Speed Record") and pop sensibilities (the first glimpses of which we saw on 1983's "Metal Circus" EP) . Their last two studio LPs on Warner Brothers, while not entirely bad (too much pop and not nearly enough punk), simply can't compare to their SST releases. But for Flip Your Wig, it all came together in an LP that features great songs, furious power, and an LP that is easy to listen to start to finish. Yes, the production quality is thin, but that was par for the course in the mid 80s. Their major label releases had "better" production which ultimately makes for a less enjoyable listen.

It would be easier to list the songs on this LP that are not great: "The Baby Song". That's it. That's the only song you'll skip on this whole LP. And it's not even a song, it's just 47 seconds of silly slide whistle filler. Maybe it seemed funny at the time, maybe they did it on a dare. Past that, there are only two kinds of songs on this LP: excellent and mind-blowingly excellent. I'll only list the latter below. If forced to pick a single song, "Makes No Sense At All" is probably the best punk anthem ever recorded.

Standout tracks: Flip Your Wig, Makes No Sense At All, Green Eyes, Divide and Conquer, Flexible Flyer, Private Plane, The Wit and the Wisdom

Skip 'em tracks: The Baby Song.

Final Score: 10/10.

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