To say Grant Hart lived a hard life is a gross understatement. With ’80s noise-pop pioneers Husker Dü, he played the misfit McCartney to Bob Mould’s lacerating Lennon, providing the honey chaser to his partner’s hoarse-throat howls. But just when the band seemed on the verge of following R.E.M. out of the college-radio fringes and into the mainstream, Hart was waylaid by a heroin addiction, not to mention an HIV diagnosis (which ultimately proved to be false). Following the band’s extremely acrimonious break-up, Hart gradually faded into obscurity, releasing a small handful of under-the-radar records while Mould enjoyed a steady, successful career as an alt-rock elder statesman. Recent years had been especially trying: Hart lost both parents in quick succession, and he was injured in a fire that destroyed his longtime family home in South St. Paul. And then 2017 brought the diagnosis of the kidney cancer that ultimately claimed him on September 14 at the age of 56.
But throughout Hart’s many trials and tribulations, he never lost the gifts for swooning melody and psychedelized experimentation that made Hüsker Dü the most adventurous band in ’80s indie rock. Just when you had counted him out—or even completely forgotten about him—he’d blindside you with the dizzying fuzz-pop of 1999’s Good News for the Modern Man, the frayed-nerve garage-rock of 2009’s Hot Wax (recorded with members of Godspeed You! Black Emperor), or the cinematic grandeur of 2013’s Milton-inspired concept album, The Argument, a record that deserves to go down as his career-capping masterpiece.
With this playlist, we pay tribute to the man who forged the Dave Grohl prototype of the shit-hot drummer who also a tender tunesmith, beginning with Hart’s greatest Hüsker Dü hits (including the peak-era duet with Mould on “Flip Your Wig”), and then on through his short-lived early ’90s combo Nova Mob*, and his increasingly sporadic, exceedingly underrated solo work.
* Note: Nova Mob’s 1994 self-titled second album isn’t available on Spotify.