Popular perceptions of Hüsker Dü’s implosion cast Bob Mould as the wounded victim and Grant Hart — drummer, singer, songwriter — as the problem child. Although Mould vented the depths of his disillusion and anger on 1989’s Workbook, Hart got in the first work on the plucky title track of a 1988 three-song 12-inch, painting the split in terms of a couple’s first apartment — the number of which just happened to coincide with the band’s office/studio address. (Hart denied that was his intent but few believed him.) In any case, “2541” is a toouchingly sad acoustic folk-rock number with a typically catchy melody.
A moving description of Hart’s pain as well as an assertion of his survival, Intolerance — a simply played one-man band solo project that avoids familiarity by using ’60s-style organ as the most prominent rhythm instrument — deals with more than one traumatic aspect of his life. The obsessively driven (with strings) “Fanfare in D Major (Come, Come)” (remade from the EP, as was “2541,” which gets a much rockier arrangement with surprisingly Mouldish vocals) and the shambling (complete with dentist drill) “You’re the Victim” are clearly aimed at Mould. In the same vein, the Dylanesque — with wailing harmonica and a killer chorus — “Now That You Know Me” discusses a relationship in vague terms that could apply to the band. But “The Main” is about drug addiction, and the solemn “She Can See the Angels Coming” recalls the band’s manager, Dave Savoy, who committed suicide in 1987.
In late ’89, Hart — now sticking to vocals adn guitar — formed Nova Mob, a rock trio with a really good bassist and an inferior drummer. (Nova Mob was also the name of an obscure but historically significant late-’70s Liverpool outfit that included Julian Cope, Budgie and Pete Wylie.) Written and performed as a rock opera, The Last Days of Pompeii is a weirdly produced (and, for the genre, typically oblique) concept album that is part madness and part fascinating ambition. As a vehicle for quixotic lyrics about ancient history and space exploration, the simple music balances Hart’s pop-ulism and sweeping rock ideas with sure strength, if not much ingenuity. (But don’t be too surprised if you find yourself idly humming a tune called “Wernher Von Braun.”)
Released as a preview of the Pompeii LP, Admiral of the Sea contains two mixes of its clunky organ-churning title track (a showcase for drummer Michael Crego’s shortcomings), a single mix of the catchy “The Last Days of Pompeii,” an instrumental mix of a third album track and a live ‘n’ loud “I Just Want to Make Love to You,” recorded in Switzerland.