First Bob Mould returns from the wilderness with an excellent album of rock songs, Silver Age, now Grant Hart, his erstwhile bandmate in much missed US punk band Hüsker Dü is back with his best record in years.
True to the maverick spirit of his work post-Dü, it’s a sprawling double album, comprising 20 songs inspired by a visit to James Grauerholz, former secretary to Beat writer William S Burroughs.
Grauerholz showed Hart an unpublished manuscript for Burroughs’s science fiction reworking of John Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost, which portrays the fallen angels as men from distant planets and God as US president Harry S Truman.
The pair proposed setting Burroughs’s story to music, in similar fashion to Burroughs’s 1990s collaboration with Tom Waits in turning a German folk tale into The Black Rider.
Hart’s imagination seems to have worked overtime, producing songs that sweep through a panoply of styles including garage rock, waltzes, 60s West Coast pop, Weimar cabaret, Buddy Holly-style 50s rock ’n’ roll and Irving Berlin-like show tunes.
Is The Sky the Limit? ruminates on the aftermath of rejection to the lonely pulsing of Russian spacecraft Sputnick 1. There are strong hints of David Bowie in If We Have The Will and I Will Never See My Home.
It’s hard to second guess where this album will turn next, which admittedly can be bewildering at times, but if you’re prepared to go with the flow you’ll find a work similar in scope to The Magnetic Fields’ 69 Love Songs.
Admittedly the production is a little ragged; you can’t, however, fault Hart’s grand ambition.