Speed Tease: Hüsker Dü, “Newest Industry” (1984)

highwayYou’re driving fast, on a straight road. You may be going even faster than you actually went if you’re now watching a speeded-up film—or listening to a Hüsker Dü song.

The road has unpredictable variations of width; it’s mostly two-lane but some sections have one or three or four or more. “Newest Industry” starts out with a very one-lane feeling caused by the bass playing the same notes as the guitar melody.

“Newest Industry” 1

Then it settles down into a normal complementarity between bass and guitar. I’ll call this the two-lane feeling.

“Newest Industry” 2

Extra lanes are briefly opened up as the bass line goes to the fifth instead of the tonic in the second pair of chords in the instrumental appendix to the verse. (In musicspeak, putting the fifth note at the bottom is called the second inversion of the chord.) Listen to the momentary sense of width this produces, even as Hüsker Dü slows down not a whit:

“Newest Industry” 3

Guitar chord:   G#  A# A#  A#  G#  A# A#  A#   A  B  B    B         E
Bass note:        [Same, until . . . ]                            E  F#F# F#     E

Those fifth notes totally belong to the A and B chords the guitar is playing, but given the authority of being the bottom notes they imply the different worlds of E and F-sharp chords. (Might one say: semipolytonal?)

Just like when you’re speeding on the highway of life, the appearance of extra lanes teases your mind with options not yet concrete – what might you do in this space? – until the chances, whatever they were, vanish as the road once again constricts. Because you’re going fast. It’s wonderful how speed simplifies.


About Steve Smith

Professor of Philosophy & Religious Studies and Director of Film Studies at Millsaps College
This entry was posted in Arrangements and Sounds, Rock Aesthetics and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s