Review: Grant Hart - Hot Wax
Released: October 6, 2009
The progression of an artist from a seminal band to a solo career usually tells us more about the artist now that they're freed from the shackles of band unity (in whatever form it existed). What's interesting about Grant Hart's Hot Wax is that it tells us some things about him, but more of where he came from and how that fit into his own art, both in Hüsker Dü and on his own.
The album opens with "You're Not the Moon," perhaps the best psych garage piece I've ever heard. The mix of pop, psychelelia and proto-punk creates a wall of sound that prefigures Hüsker Dü's oh-so-listenable noise. The baroque pop of "Barbara," along with the strangely innocent darkness of the words, isolates a quality that he's incorporated into much of his music over the years. He dabbles in Bowie and Mott the Hoople-era glam ("School Buses are for Children" and "Narcissus, Narcissus") and fuzzy 60s pop ("Sailor Jack"). "California Zephyr" has the pop bombast of Neil Diamond without crossing the line into corny sentimentality. The understated cacophony and strong melodies of the soaring "My Regrets," a bit the inverse of Hüsker Dü, is not only a bold closer, but also a segue from this "prequel," so to speak, into what Hart has already done in his long career.
While Hot Wax is a view into Grant Hart's musical origins, it is not simply reliving the past, à la John Lennon's Rock N Roll. Hart employs the help of Godspeed You! Black Emperor and A Silver Mt Zion, two of rock's most forward thinking outfits. This isn't Hart replaying his younger days, but rather distilling his own music into its component parts. Not only does this illustrate where Hart's music came from, but also demonstrates both a love and deep understanding of his influences, such that he can make a record that returns to the past and pushes boldly into the future simultaneously.
If you're curious about my rating categories, read the description.