Hüsker Dü – Tonite Longhorn

Six years ago saw Hüsker Dü's 'Savage Young Dü' box set of their early days, and now comes the two-disc 'Tonite Longhorn' live recordings from Longhorn Bar at the...
Hüsker Dü : Tonite Longhorn
8.0 Reflex,2023 
Hüsker Dü : Tonite Longhorn

At the very end of the seventies, just after punk exploded but just before the Reagan Era, Minneapolis witnessed the birth of an iconic underground punk rock band that would burn brightly, yet flame out in interpersonal acrimony before the eighties were over, but with a legacy that would live on forever. And that band was The Replacements. But there was also their great local rival, Hüsker Dü – drummer Grant Hart, guitarist Bob Mould, and bassist Greg Norton would become one of the great ‘punk scene’ acts of that decade. Six years ago saw the Savage Young Dü box set (QRO review) of their early days, and now comes the two-disc Tonite Longhorn live recordings from Longhorn Bar at the start of their career.

First things first, Tonite is definitely the band at their embryonic, before what would become old classics such as “Do You Remember?” or “Statues” had fully come together. But the rawness (with excellent recording by late sound engineer Terry Katzman) is special in its own way. Moreover, Hüsker Dü were always known as a great live band throughout their career, and this can be heard even in their early days, when they regularly played Longhorn Bar (the album is compiled from four nights there over 1979-1980). “We’re not the most professional band in the Twin Cities, but we have fun, though…” Hart says after record opener “Insects Rule the World”.

The funnier “Insects” did not become a live staple, and it is also interesting for long-time fans of the band to hear songs from their early days that just stayed in the early days. Hüsker Dü were also known for maturing over time, and one can see why the more juvenile punk likes of “Insects” or “Uncle Ron” fell by the wayside, but they were distinctly fun at the time, though, captured here. It’s also nice to hear Hart, Mould and Norton easier in switching singing/songwriting duties as young men, before Norton would stop making songs and the band rather ossified into the Hart vs. Mould alternation that would eventually break them up.

Unfortunately, Hüsker Dü’s seminal years on seminal eighties punk label SST are still locked in the purgatory of that now-moribund label which mercurial owner Greg Ginn has kept them in (unless you’ve got the major label money to break them free – see: Dinosaur Jr, Meat Puppets, Sonic Youth), so deluxe versions of the likes of Zen Arcade are still only a dream (and Hart passed away exactly six years ago, just before Savage was released). But it’s still great to get a look at one of punk rock’s great bands when they were just wild kids.

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