ALONG WITH GROUPS like the Minutemen and the Meat Puppets, Minneapolis' Husker Du is spearheading a daring expansion of the hardcore punk style beyond its characteristic high speed, brutal energy and simple structures. On last year's "Zen Arcade," Husker Du offered a galvanic remake of The Byrds' "Eight Miles High" that suggested a new realm of musical possibilities lurking somewhere between folk-rock and punk. The group's new album, "New Day Rising," not only fleshes out these possibilities, but boldly proclaims the band's rapidly developing songwriting and arranging prowess.
The album opens with the title cut, a jubilant synthesis of folksy choruses and savage guitar that, unfortunately, is marred by Spot's nearly disastrous production job. Throughout, Bob Mould's annoying high-end guitar distortion and Grant Hart's noisy cymbal splashes cloud the band's music. Nonetheless, beneath the buzz and clang are a great Dylanesque folk-rock song ("Terms of Psychic Warfare"), an evocative slice of neo-psychedelia ("Powerline"), and even a piece of contagious pop ("Books About UFOs").
In addition to some straight buzzsaw punk, Husker Du offers several songs in which Mould's weary vocals and the band's ringing guitars suggest REM with a heavy dose of anger and energy. In fact, one reason that "New Day Rising" transcends the production botch is that Husker Du's bristling delivery makes most of these songs jump out of the grooves.