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Friday, May 25, 2012

"Don't Want to Know If You Are Lonely"

Hüsker Dü - "Don't Want to Know If You Are Lonely" (1986)

Bassist Greg Norton had a great mustache.

The band that started as punks and then evolved into a genre that was hard to describe. They broke up in 1988 as one of the most well respected performers of 'college rock' a genre that is cited as a jumping off point for the 'alternative' scene that dominated music in the 90s and 00s. Hüsker Dü was named after a board game, but with umlauts. Actually the story goes that they couldn't remember the lyrics to "Psycho Killer" and so just started saying random phrases in foreign languages and one of them said Hūsker Dū, which was a kids game mildly popular in the 60s and 70s. They fired their keyboardist during their first show and remained a trio from that moment on. Guitarist Mould and Drummer Hart shared production duties and each individually wrote and sang songs for every album. This song is Hart's.

The lead single for their major label debut, the song had a lot of pressure on it at the time, but over 25 years later, we can just listen and hear the music. It's definitely rooted in punk, the fast tempo, the screeching guitar, and the rolling drum breaks. But the guitar also has some great layered moments in the solo. There's more than a few overdubs going on, and the final squeal sounds like something a metal band would end a solo with instead of a punk outfit. Lyrically the song is classic tortured male. He's broken up with someone and doesn't want to know if she's lonely, but wants to know if she's alright. He doesn't want to hear from her friends, but wants them to leave a message. For my money the best line comes right at the end of the opening verse "/It reassures me just to know that you're okay/But I don't want you to go on needing me this way" (Hart). He needs reassuring that she's OK, but she's the one that needs him? It's a classic way of dealing with the pain of a breakup, and I think we've all been there. That 's what makes the song a good one, we can relate.

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