Thursday, November 1, 2018

Certain Songs #1356: Nova Mob – “The Last Days of Pompeii / Benediction” | Medialoper

Album: The Last Days of Pompeii
Year: 1991

We’ve already discussed how, after the break-up of Hüsker Dü, Grant Hart almost immediately got on his horse and released the eternal classic single, “2541,” and then followed that with the mostly overstuffed Intolerance, which at least featured one of the greatest songs ever about trying to get off the horse, “The Main.”

Since all of that, of course, Grant Hart has passed away, which will probably make the mean things I’m about to say in regards to his next project, Nova Mob, seem even meaner.

Maybe, but I never stopped rooting for Grant Hart, and so when I read at some point in 1991 that he had decided to front a punk-pop band in much of the same style as Hüsker Dü — so far, so good — and was planning to release a concept album (uh, oh) about rocket scientist Wernher von Braun escaping the end of World War II by time-traveling back to Pompeii. As you do.

And even that would have been fine — the second best song on the album opened with the great joke “Her favorite color is Wernher von Braun” — except that most of the songs were so incredibly generic. And the problem was simple: as a guitarist, Grant Hart was one of the greatest and most unique drummers in rock history. Meanwhile, the problem with their drummer was that he wasn’t Grant Hart.

So the songs had to be extra catchy to get by, and for the most part, they weren’t. The exception was the final and title track, which at the very least had a great chorus, sung by Hart in character as Pliny the Observer. As you do.

These are the last days in the city of Pompeii
These are the last days, uhhuh, hey-hey
These are the last days…

Luckily, Hart’s great sense of melody hadn’t abandoned him — it actually never did, though I think he occasionally ignored it — and “Last Days of Pompeii” is a complete earworm, and could have even been better with a great drummer and a great guitarist instead of good ones.

“Benediction” is basically a short coda that leads into the sound of Vesuvius erupting and destroying everything. As it did.

After a second Nova Mob album — which was about the same as the first, with a single killer track “Evergreen Memorial Drive,” which perversely, was a hidden track (as you do) — Hart abandoned the pop-punk format for the rest of his life, making a series of eccentric (and much better) solo albums.

“The Last Days of Pompeii / Benediction”

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