When Hüsker Dü split due to mounting tensions within the band, the future of Grant Hart seemed somewhat cloudy. He was suffering from some very public addictions, and things seemed a little sketchy for him at first. Thankfully, he was able to get clean, and go on to form the excellent Nova Mob.
The nine tracks that make up Hot Wax seem to have been recorded under a number of different circumstances. There are two producers listed, and the sound quality varies wildly from track to track. As a whole though, the record hangs together in a remarkably cohesive fashion.
Hot Wax opens up with “You’re The Reflection Of The Moon On The Water,” which is a garage-band extravaganza. There is a great vintage organ sound on it, similar to that of the legendary Them’s “Gloria.” It is a great way to kick off a record.
The garage band vintage organ echo continues on a number of tracks, including, “Charles Hollis Jones,” and “Sailor Jack.” Actually, “Sailor Jack” is sort of an unholy spawn of The Beach Boys and Question Mark And The Mysterians.
I have always been hard pressed to describe Hart’s voice, as he uses different inflections depending on the song. But on Hot Wax, there is a notable similarity to that of David Bowie, certainly of the way he intones “Changes.” A quick listen to “School Buses Are For Children,” and “My Regrets,” will confirm this.
One of Hüsker Dü’s all-time greatest songs is “Diane,” off Metal Circus. Grant Hart wrote it, and it shows off his way with a melody spectacularly. He still has the gift, as “California Zephyr” shows. This is sort of a Big Star meets the Dü kind of tune.
I’m not really sure what all the Greek mythological references are about, but they are here. The title of the album, Hot Wax is illustrated on the cover not with a melting LP or something similar. Rather, it features a rendering of Icarus flying too close to the sun. If you remember, the wings Icarus flew on were made of wax, and his flight melted them.
There is also a song here titled “Narcissus, Narcissus,” a mid-tempo rocker that sounds like a kiss-off to an ex-lover.
Twenty years after the demise of Hüsker Dü, one of the great American bands of all time as far as I am concerned, it is really great to hear one of the principles back at it.
Hot Wax is in its own way the perfect summation of what Grant Hart has always been known for. Great punk, great pop, and wildly provocative lyrics are what this record is all about. It really does have merit for those who exist outside of the Dü-obsessed like myself.
Hot Wax is a pretty good record from someone I had kind of given up on. It may not be Hüsker Dü, but for now, it will do.