October 11, 2007

Double Nickels for the Zen Arcade

Double Nickels on the DimeI like Double Nickels on the Dime. Heard it for the first time last week, and it's still growing on me as I'm listening to it again while writing this post. I definitely admire the hell out of what those three dudes pulled off on it, and it sucks that D. wasn't around much longer afterwards. Mike Watt's playing is amazing here, too, as is drummer George Hurley's. I probably would have gotten really into this band, if I had heard them when I was younger, say, around the age of 13, the age that I was when I heard Husker Du's Zen Arcade for the first time.

The story goes that hearing about Zen Arcade inspired the Minutemen, who were labelmates of Husker Du, to expand a single album that they had been planning on releasing into the 40+ track behemoth that became Double Nickels on the Dime, and I am glad that it did, because I am really digging this album now that I'm finally checking it out. However, I am not so glad that Zen Arcade was left off of the Rolling Stone list that inspired this blog. Sure, they voted Husker Du's New Day Rising onto the list, and it's a pretty good album, just not as great as the neglected Zen Arcade.

I had grown up enjoying poseur band like Kiss and Twisted Sister, but seeing and hearing Motley Crue's video for "Smoking in the Boys Room" drove me away from all of it. Thanks to that lameass cover, I went from "Metal rules!" to "Metal sucks!" in a short span of time. Then, a few years later, one sunny summer afternoon in 1988, after I had embraced '60s and '70s "classic rock" and almost completely abandoned '80s music, a then-four-year-old Zen Arcade came into my life and showed me that there was still some great hard rock being released well into the '80s. I popped a dubbed cassette of the album into my cheap walkman in my tent at camp and had my mind blown. In addition to being floored by their diversity, I was shocked by the evident honesty and passion, which the cold dance pop and pop metal dominating the airwaves at the time sorely lacked. "Something I Learned Today", "Broken Home, Broken Heart", "Never Talking to You Again", "Dreams Reoccurring", "I'll Never Forget You", "Turn on the News", "Reoccurring Dream"; yeah, Mould and his band sure as hell did it for me.

After hearing Zen Arcade, I was more receptive to the idea that post-Zep hard rock bands didn't have to suck, which sounds ridiculous, but, listen man, the suckiness of the Crue, Bon Jovi, Poison, and their ilk had scarred me bad. It took something as great as Zen Arcade to knock some sense into me, so I can't help but be disappointed that it didn't make the list along with its sister album.

And, yes, I'm cool with Double Nickels on the Dime being on the list. It features that same diversity, passion, and honesty that won me over on Zen Arcade, and, had I heard Double Nickels on the Dime that summer afternoon instead, it probably would have left a similar impression on me. I'm just grateful that somebody lent me one of 'em, at least.

Unfortunately, around that time, somebody also played an S.O.D.: Stormtroopers of Death album for me, which I didn't understand was a gag and despised. Due to the brevity of their tunes, I labored under the misconception that they had been the Minutemen for a long time afterwards and, as a result, never checked out the real deal. Oh well, better late than never!


polchic said...

I love this line:

"After hearing Zen Arcade, I was more receptive to the idea that post-Zep hard rock bands didn't have to suck."

venerableseed said...

The Zen Arcade omission from the RS list might be the mag's most egregious overlook. ZA might not be my type of hype but it passes every test that lists like this would seem to take into consideration. Great tunes, pioneering sound (as opposed to Pioneer sound), lasting impact, and mainstream critical acceptance and regard. I had to scan the list a few times to make sure I hadn't missed it.

btw great stuff LB.