Are musicians as superstitious as sports stars? Is there a home field advantage? Soul Asylum’s latest effort, Hurry Up and Wait, is a good indicator that there is some magic in the concept of home, as the Minnesota rockers’ new album — which was recorded in Minneapolis, where it all began — is easily their best in over two decades.
Frontman Dave Pirner moved back to Minneapolis a few years ago after his divorce, after living most recently in New Orleans. He and the band chose to record Hurry Up and Wait, their 12th album, and first new record in four years, at the fabled Nicollet Studios. This is the street in Minneapolis that saw the creation of some of rock’s best albums, including most of Husker Du’s iconic albums, and nearly all of The Replacements records. Soul Asylum’s early albums were also laid down on Nicollet Avenue, bringing the band full circle, back to their roots.
Hurry Up and Wait is an instant classic. With the help of producer John Fields, Pirner and the band flexes creative muscles that have been somewhat dormant. Lyrically, the album fits in with the band’s ’90s classics, Grave Dancers Union, Let Your Dim Light Shine, and Candy From Strangers. Musically, Soul Asylum has tapped into the fountain of youth, creating aural journeys that take the listener through the last 30 years. It’s an accomplishment that begs to be acknowledged.
These songs are ridiculously catchy, and Pirner weaves in and out of rockers and slower songs like an artist who has been doing this for more than 30 years. “The Beginning,” the opening track, sets the tone for the record. Pirner sings that, “this is the beginning of a great adventure,” and then spends the next 12 songs holding up that promise. There’s even a trumpet bridge in the middle of the song that just feels so right.
“If I told You” follows, and it feels like the right song for a world social distancing in self-quarantines because of the novel coronavirus. Without a world-wide pandemic, the lyrics would still make the listener long for sunny summer days, and unrequited love. With it, with many people still stuck at home, it’s a song that gives hope for a better future.
Hurry Up and Wait kicks it up with the third track, “Got it Pretty Good,” which is a solid rocker that calls back to the late ’80s Minneapolis rock scene. Ryan Smith’s crunching guitar and Michael Bland’s drumming sets the perfect back beat for a song that will be a crowd favorite sing/shout-along when played live in front of an audience.
“Make Her Laugh” gives Pirner another chance to highlight his unique ability to create relatable stories in his lyric compositions. A whole generation of fans can listen to this song and instantly be transported back to an era long gone. The nostalgia game is strong on Hurry Up and Wait.
The album doesn’t let up with those feelings with “Busy Signals,” “Social Butterfly,” and “Dead Letter,” which could have all been featured on any Soul Asylum album in the 1990s and would fit right in with the songs that dominated alternative rock radio during that decade.
“Landmines,” the eighth track on Hurry Up and Wait, has a rock and blues vibe that sticks with you well after the last note has been played. Smith’s fret work shines, and this would be a fun song to see played live, with the jazz-like beat invoking the entire band to play off each other.
Hurry Up and Wait continues to surprise listeners with “Here We Go” and “Freezer Burn,” which represents a turn to the strongest songs on the album. The latter, “Freezer Burn,” is easily one of the best songs on Hurry Up and Wait — but not the best.
“Freezer Burn’s” infectious chorus punctuated by the stop and go music and wailing riffs demands that the listener bop their head with the beat. Pirner sings, “I never thought you’d turn out who you turned out to be, you really made a believer out of me,” and those are sentiments I’ve thought to myself about a great many loves in my lifetime.
“Silent Treatment” bridges Hurry Up and Wait‘s two best songs with some of the album’s best lyrics. This is another song that belongs in the 1990s, and yet still matters, and is just as poignant in 2020. This is a testament to the strength of the album as a whole.
The best song on the album follows with “Hopped Up Feelin’,” a track that I can’t wait to see performed live for myriad reasons, the first of which is I can’t wait to shout these lyrics back at the band, as these words resonate with every ounce my very soul.
This is a pure rocker that hits all the right notes — pun intended — with this reviewer, who spent his 20s in the 90s, living an amazing life. Pirner sounds like he himself is 20 years-old again, singing, “You never see when I’m keeping it together, you only see me when I’m falling apart,” which, to those who know his life story, seems to hit the nail on the head.
The chorus is energetic enough to make me long for the good old days of mosh pits and cheap beers in small rock clubs, before the advent of the cell phones and everybody always trying to film things. Like the rest of the album, “Hopped Up Feelin'” makes me long for another time.
Hurry Up and Wait wraps up with an amazing reflective track, “Silly Things,” where Pirner seemingly apologizes to anyone he’s ever wronged by calling out his own shortcomings. And it is incredibly refreshing and relatable. If “The Beginning” was the perfect album opener, “Silly Things” is the perfect closer, bringing one of the best albums of 2020 to an end.
I’ve spent a good portion of this review comparing Hurry Up and Wait to the Soul Asylum albums of the 1990s, and for good reason. This album feels like a time capsule, that transports the listener to that last decade of the 20th century. By going home to Minneapolis, and by choosing to record this album on Nicollet Avenue, Soul Asylum has created an amazing collection of songs that are themselves timeless, and that is an astounding feat in and of itself.
When I listen to Hurry Up and Wait, I can close my eyes and see new episodes of Friends on my TV, with commercials for Seinfeld and ER coming up next. I can see myself in flannel shirts with posters of Pearl Jam and Soundgarden all over the walls of my first apartment. I relive all the broken hearts I have felt, and the long nights smoking Camel Lights and writing unpublished short stories on a bulky old word processor. In this time of quarantine amidst a global pandemic, it’s a welcome feeling, and for that, I am glad for Soul Asylum and this amazing album.
- The Beginning
- If I Told You
- Got It Pretty Good
- Make Her Laugh
- Busy Signals
- Social Butterfly
- Dead Letter
- Here We Go
- Freezer Burn
- Silent Treatment
- Hopped Up Feelin’
- Silly Things
Hurry Up and Wait is available now, digitally in the Apple Store and Google Store, and in physical form in CD and vinyl.
All images courtesy of Soul Asylum and the Soul Asylum Facebook page.