Friday, February 20, 2015

This solid citizen took the time to remaster Hüsker Dü's watershed 1984 punk album 'Zen Arcade'

Posted By on Fri, Feb 20, 2015 at 2:25 PM

Of all the records I've bought the week they were released, few have aged as well as this Minneapolis trio's double album. Few have also been as sorely in need of a solid reissue treatment, as well. That's not likely to happen soon with the case of Zen Arcade, which is why it's so rad that YouTube user zararity took the time to privately remaster the record for her or himself and then upload the results to the site.

These private remasters were first posted several years ago, but have been uploaded again recently (with the promising word "upgrade" appended to them in caps). I appreciate how the remaster seems to have added a bit of heft to the overall sound, even if that's something I could have achieved myself at home with an equalizer. You can find them all here, while I myself have peppered a few of my very favorite tracks from the record throughout this piece.

There is an undeniable "flatness" to original engineer and producer Spot's sound, especially with the drums. I doubt he had a cardboard kit set up for every act he worked with, but it sure sounds like it. The songs also sound unnecessarily treble-heavy. That said, he certainly got great performances from the many excellent acts he worked with, such as the Minutemen, Black Flag, Meat Puppets, Descendents, Misfits, Minor Threat, Big Boys and the Dicks. And I assume that all those people worked with him by choice. There was never an attempt, either on CD reissues or later vinyl pressings, to correct or change any of the sound on original releases by the label, SST. Of course, every band (except for perhaps Gone) that's ever been on SST has not been very happy with how their releases and how their royalty statements have been treated.

Two years ago, the writer David Swan broached the remaster subject in an Australian interview, all of which is worth a read. This is Mould's response:

I haven’t given it any thought personally, mostly because the logistics of it would be, wow … Firstly, where are the masters? Second, who owns the masters? Third, who’s going to master them? Fourth, who would agree to give up rights so they can all go together? Nobody ever signed any contracts, in an ideal world everyone would agree, and that would be great but … I haven’t given it that much thought. If it’s going to happen someday, I’m sure it would be a perfect storm, where everything just lines up all at once. But yeah I don’t push it, I don’t think about it. As I said before, I’m pretty busy these days, and keeping track of everything is a challenge. All I know is at the moment I’m visiting Australia in March.

The original info on the recording of the record is as follows:
Recorded & mixed at Total Access, Rondo Beach, CA, October 1983
Whoever wrote the songs sings it, except for track C1
Track D2 is live-done track, no overdubs or funny stuff
Everything on the record is first-take, except for A1 & C4, which started too fast
We all throw chairs during track B2
There were only two out-takes from these sessions, "Dozen Dreams" and "Some Kind Of Fun"
The whole thing took about 85 hours, the last 40 hours straight for mixing
Carducci wants another album already, but not another double LP

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