H aving followed the career of Grant Hart, inset, with only fleeting interest through his days in influential garage rockers Husker Du, his subsequent band, Nova Mob, the drug years, artistic feuding and what not, I did not see this one coming – an audacious double album inspired by John Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost about the fall of Lucifer, plus bonus battle scenes.
Grant Hart: The Argument
* * *
More ardent Hart fans will at least appreciate the William Burroughs connection. Hart knew the late author and was aware of his unpublished science fiction allegory, Lost Paradise, featuring Harry S Truman as God. The Argument is Hart’s musical retelling of this beast of a tale, and it is a work he has immersed himself in, auteur-style, through a succession of personal traumas.
Both Hart’s parents have died in the last two years and the house he grew up in was gutted by fire last year, making him homeless at the age of 50. His response was to throw himself into completing this project. But the wildly diverse The Argument is not an oppressive listen. Although tracks bleed into one another, if you don’t like what you are hearing, stick around for a couple of minutes while Hart switches styles.
So the melodic indie number Morningstar is followed by the melodramatic musical theatre of Awake, Arise! with Grant doing a surprisingly moving turn as Lucifer rallying his troops after his celestial expulsion. If We Have The Will, a simple ditty with a big, insidious motivational message, is followed by the wistful synth rock of I Will Never See My Home.
The Argument is peppered with Hart’s signature melodic garage rock sound but also encompasses tripped-out Flaming Lips plaintiveness (Is The Sky The Limit?), a sassy 1950s rock’n’roll croon (So Far From Heaven) and an impish bluesy strut (Sin). Hart proves the Devil does have all the best tunes with the Buddy Holly rattle of Letting Me Out and gives him the voice of Al Jolson on ragtime temptation ditty Underneath The Apple Tree.
There is an urgency to Run For The Wilderness, tracing Adam and Eve’s banishment from Eden (“I’ve got my walking papers”), and a right ethical tussle on the title track, but also a woozy fairground feel to much of this ride. Although a lot to consume in one sitting, The Argument is the ultimately rewarding outpourings of one man battling his demons.