Diggin' in the crates.
The great thing about having a huge record collection like my own is that you're always discovering things buried within it's nooks and crannies that you either haven't heard in years or never really listened to at all. This happened to me most recently just last night. I was reading Colin Meloy's contribution to the 33 1/3 series published by Continuum Books, which is about the album "Let It Be"--the one by The Replacements, not the one by The Beatles. As with a few of the books in this series that I've read, Meloy's is less a book-length discussion of the album and more an explanation of the importance of the album through a memoir that explains the significance it had in his own life. Michelangelo Matos's book about Prince's "Sign O' the Times" is evidently similar, while Joe Pernice's about "Meat Is Murder" by The Smiths is a fictional version of the same sort of thing. I've heard some complaints from some of the readers of the series about these particular books, that they don't discuss the album enough or whatever, but for me these have been some of my favorite volumes in the series. To each his own, I suppose.
Anyway, there came a point in the book where Meloy was discussing a bunch of different albums he'd gotten during the same period of time in which he acquired "Let It Be." He mentioned "Candy Apple Grey" in this context, talking about how he'd bought it because of "Hardly Getting Over It", a song his uncle had put on a mix tape for him, and been shocked by what he called "the amp-destroying feedback" of album opener "Crystal". This piqued my curiosity--I'd bought "Candy Apple Grey" used on cassette something like 5 years ago, but only listened to it once or twice before filing it away. I don't remember why I found it disappointing; I still like the songs I know from it ("Don't Wanna Know If You Are Lonely", "Hardly Getting Over It," and "Too Far Down"), but for some reason the other 7 songs on the tape seemed mediocre to me at the time, and I never really got to know them. Now Colin Meloy talking about amp-destroying feedback was making me want to pull it out and give it another chance.
When I found the cassette, which had worked its way to the bottom layer in the milk crate it was in (one of 10 milk crates that house my cassette collection), and put it on, I was blown away. Meloy was right, "Crystal" was intense and noisy, everything I want when I go to listen to one of Husker Du's heavy songs. But it wasn't a fluke, as I feared it might be; indeed, pretty much every song on the album was outstanding. At the time of "Candy Apple Grey"'s recording, Grant Hart was really coming into his own as a songwriter (and the fact that this was starting to make Bob Mould feel threatened is obvious in the way that both sides of the album are laid out Mould/Hart/Mould/Hart/Mould, with Bob getting two more songs than Grant). "Don't Wanna Know If You Are Lonely" was known to be great, but I wasn't prepared for how awesome "Dead Set On Destruction" and "Sorry Somehow" also were. Meanwhile, Mould's songs were just as consistently awesome, with "I Don't Know For Sure," "Eiffel Tower High," and the aforementioned "Crystal" standing alongside his best songs from earlier in Husker Du's career, like "Makes No Sense At All", "Celebrated Summer" and "I Apologize".
In fact, after listening to "Candy Apple Grey" all the way through, it seemed like it worked better as a complete album than the two previous Husker Du efforts, "Flip Your Wig" and "New Day Rising", both of which are far more respected today. By cutting the amount of songs that they put on "Candy Apple Grey" down to 10 from the two previous albums' 14, they avoided padding their albums with such mediocrities "New Day Rising"'s "How To Skin A Cat", or "Flip Your Wig"'s two superfluous closing instrumentals. "Candy Apple Grey" is solid from one end to the other, and belies the oft-repeated myth that Husker Du were in decline by the time they signed to a major label. I have no idea why I went 5 years before really listening to my copy of this album, but it's a mistake that won't be repeated. I'm sure I'll be playing this one for a long time to come.