Following The Replacements but beating R.E.M. in the “selling out to a major label” sweepstakes, Hüsker Dü released Candy Apple Grey on Warner Bros just six months after Flip Your Wig, their fourth album in less than two years.
Of course, the whole major vs. indie thing is a load of horseshit: loads and loads of uncompromising music had been made for the majors long before the indies became a viable career alternative. It all depended on the artist. Still does, as far as I can tell.
As so as far as I could tell then — or now, for that matter — Candy Apple Grey was the record Hüsker Dü would have made for SST had they stayed with SST, reflecting their continued growth as both songwriters and record-makers.
Sure, there were more keyboards: not just piano, but organ and — gasp!! — even a bit of synth, but what really distinguished Candy Apple Grey from any of their other records (with the possible exception of Zen Arcade) was the departure from their normal song arrangements.
So instead of nothing but straightforward guitar-bass-drum rockers with massive hooks, Candy Apple Grey opened with an amelodic thrash tune, made you flip the disc between two acoustic-oriented dirges, and stuck a big piano song near the end for good measure.
So basically, their “major-label sellout” album was perhaps their most experimental record.
In retrospect, Candy Apple Grey was Hüsker Dü’s equivalent to The Beatles: an early peek at the solo careers to come.
Certainly, the organ sound that played such a major part on Grant Hart’s Intolerance first showed up right here, on “Sorry Somehow,” where as it turns out, hanging on to that green-eyed UFO-loving girl was perhaps not as easy as he’d hoped.
Time heals, time goes on and time really flies
Time hurts and time can cut you, cut you down to size
There’s no need to touch you now, no, I’m doing fine
Life too can cut you and I’ve cut you out of mine
With Mould’s guitar curlicuing around the Hammond organ, “Sorry Somehow” kinda reminded me of what could have been the single from Deep Purple In Rock: big and muscular, though Ritchie Blackmore would have never been satisfied by a guitar solo with so few histrionics.
Those come at the end, when Hart screams “sorry! sorry! sorry! sorry!” at the end, and while you wonder how a guy who was so happy just six months ago could now be so angry and sad, 1986 turned out to be a year where I spent a lot of time on both ends of that spectrum, sometimes multiple times in a single day.
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