When I told a friend of mine I was reviewing the new Grant Hart record, she frowned sympathetically and said, “Oh, that’s too bad.” I told her, no, it’s a good thing, but I knew why she was so skeptical. Once, Hart was a living legend of punk rock, the co-genius behind Hüsker Dü, one of the most important bands to come out of our state. But while his ex-bandmate Bob Mould went on to alt-rock stardom, Hart spent the Nineties as a forgotten also-ran. He and his new group Nova Mob couldn’t catch a break, putting out a string of mediocre records amid shufflng labels, a bad bus crash and Hart’s ongoing heroin use, an addiction he now says is behind him. But Good News is good news indeed: This is Hart’s best album since the Dü. And it’s a success indubitably his own, since he plays and sings nearly everything himself—Indigenous’ Mato Nanji guests on “Seka Knows,” but that’s about it. I wouldn’t have guessed that the Beach Boys would be a prominent influence, but the spirit of Brian Wilson is all over this record, especially on “Run Run Run to the Centre Pompidou,” with its multi-layered choruses and innocent theme about trying to see as much of Paris as possible before the vacation’s over. “Nobody Rides for Free” mixes Dylanesque lyrics with a driving piano-and-organ arrangement, while “You Don’t Have To Tell Me Now” echoes “Hunky Dory”-era David Bowie. Hart’s expressive tenor and strong songwriting keep everything together. In short, an artifact full of gems from a guy I always knew had a great record in him but hadn’t thought I’d hear. 4 out of 5 stars.
Originally published on citysearch.com, November 30, 1999. It’s no longer online there, so I’ve reposted it in full here.