Certain Songs #659: Hüsker Dü – “Ice Cold Ice”

husker-du-ice-cold-ice Album: Warehouse: Songs and Stories
Year: 1987


In the early spring of 1987, I lived in a loft in Clovis that was five minutes away from Video Zone. That meant that I could wake up at 7:30 and be at the store by 8:00 to open it up and start checking in and shelving the overnight returns in time for the store to open at 9:00.

And since I was the supervisor for that early shift, it meant that I could put the tape I made of Warehouse: Songs and Stories in the boombox in my office and blast it while we got the store ready to go.

There wasn’t time to play the whole album, but there sure as shit was time to play “Ice Cold Ice,” which was favorite song on the album, and — with the exception of “Celebrated Summer” and (maybe) “Changes” — is the greatest song that Bob Mould ever wrote.

I love the slow ominous beginning, with the echoed “Iiiiiiiiiiccccccccce colllllllllllllddd iiiiiiiiiiiiiccccccee” buried deep under thunderous power chords and marching drums until it suddenly blasts off into the main riff as Mould slides his pick up the neck of his guitar and straight into the first verse.

Barren lands and barren minds
(Ice cold ice)
In another place and time
(Ice cold ice)
I feel I’ve never known myself
(Ice cold ice)
Frozen in the sand again
(Ice cold ice)

Listen to (I’ll assume) Greg Norton’s bass underneath that verse — it’s rolling and rumbling and doing everything to distract you from the fact that Bob Mould is fucking depressed. Also distracting: the way his guitar sings “Ice cold ice” along with Grant Hart, and the burst of harmonics that lead into what I guess is the chorus:

We’re never penetrating always contemplating
We sit and count the blessings
But we’re blessed by icons
No one else could trust in
Ice cold ice cold ice cold ice

Only standing still in ice cold iiiiicccceee

“Ice Cold Ice” what happens when you take punk aesthetics, pop sensibilities, fantastic players and complete artistic control: a terrifyingly transcendent maelstrom of overdubbed guitars, stacked vocals and brute force.

When they skidded into where the guitar solo would normally go, they didn’t even bother: no solo was going to top Mould and Hart and Norton just singing together:


After that, another slide up the neck to the last verse and Bob Mould makes explicit just fucked everything really is.

We sit and pray together
That they might change the weather
My love for you will never die
If I sound distant, that’s because
You shouldn’t see me crying ice cold ice

And that was it: they locked into that last line, and drove it home over and and over and over, amping up the guitars and doubling down on the drums with every single repetition.

Shouldn’t see me crying ice cold ice
Shouldn’t see me crying ice cold ice
Shouldn’t see me crying ice cold ice
Shouldn’t see me crying ice cold ice
Shouldn’t see me crying ice cold ice
Shouldn’t see me crying ice cold ice

If I couldn’t relate to this all that much in early 1987, then by the time the celebrated summer of that year had crashed into a wall of clouds, the coda of “Ice Cold Ice” was a thing that I ended up singing loudly in my car more times that I could possibly remember.

“Ice Cold Ice”

Bob Mould & Dave Grohl perform “Ice Cold Ice” at the Disney Hall in 2011

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