Flip Your Wig, Hüsker Dü’s fourth full-length, came out this month back in 1985. Remarkably, it was the second album they released that year, after New Day Rising, and together those two albums arguably represent the high water mark for one of the greatest bands of all time. With better production values than their albums had previously seen, Flip Your Wig smoothed out the band’s pop furor just enough to help them crack into the mainstream—this was their last album before signing with Warner Bros. With songs like “Flexible Flyer,” “Divide and Conquer,” “Hate Paper Doll” and the title track, the former hardcore pioneers were catchier than ever, reaffirming them as one of the biggest underground bands in America at the time, and assuring them the kind of enduring legacy that would keep them relevant for decades to come.
The most perfectly crafted pop song on the album (and perhaps in the band’s entire catalog) is Bob Mould’s “Makes No Sense at All.” Writing a song is like putting together a puzzle that you can’t see and can’t touch but can maybe hear. “Makes No Sense at All” is one of those rare songs where every single piece of the puzzle snaps perfectly into place, from the music to the lyrics to the vocal melody. It’s also deceptively complex—when I played Hüsker Dü’s recording of it for my guitar teacher when I was 15, he immediately dismissed it as a simple three-chord riff, before realizing that it was actually a sprint through various suspended chords and that the bass notes on the guitar were constantly changing before the chords were. That’s kind of Hüsker Dü in a nutshell: they had the speed, volume and danger of a hardcore band, but the chops and songwriting acumen of classic rockers.
Mould’s continued to play the song throughout his career, both at his solo shows and with his subsequent bands, and even on nights when his voice fails him. Like, uh, in this video here, shot at the Swedish American Hall in San Francisco on Feb. 28, 2009. Mould’s voice was completely shot at this show, which drove him to pull various audience members on stage to help him play some of his classics. That kinda worked, sometimes, but it’s debatable how well it works here on “Makes No Sense at All.” Before ploinking Flip Your Wig down on the turntable tonight, take a look at this unusual performance by the legend who wrote it. It’s an entertaining curio for anybody who loves Hüsker Dü or Bob Mould.