I get a new turntable and dust off some old records. Vinyl Tap #58:
Sure, this Sugar helps the medicine go down, but not necessarily in the most delightful way. But we wouldn’t have it any other way, or expect it so from guitarist/vocalist front man Bob Mould, taking a respite from his post-punk post-Hüsker Dü solo career as he forms another trio, accessibly blistering and packing a pop-rock wallop, with bassist David Barbe and drummer Malcolm Travis.
The merger of bracing buzz-saw power punk and manic pop thrill is virtually breathtaking and non-stop from the start of Sugar’s first release, 1992’s Copper Blue. The propulsive assault ‘n’ snarl of the opener “The Act We Act,” centers around kaleidoscopic domestic chaos wherein a culmination of lyrical, instrumental, and vocal power builds with the intensity of a thousand slashing guitars:
- Another big explosion
Leaving you hoping
That something that once
Held you down
Could leave you feeling
On the ground...
And the big explosions just keep on coming. In a what-goes-around manner, “A Good Idea” menacingly evokes the Hüsker Dü-influenced Pixies, while the once-bitten theme of the doubly-biting “Changes” is in no way shy of its mark.
Pop-rock infectiousness — even when the lyrics are downbeat the music is upbeat — comes out in full force in the hook-filled “Helpless” and the straight-from-the-sixties “If I Can’t Change Your Mind,” all Beatleseque with a Byrdsian bridge. “A part of me stands confused again,” Mould sings — or self-effaces, pre-emo or so -- in the rougher-edged “Fortune Teller” — but he’s not too baffled to get the group together for a fab four-minus one “Yeeaah!” harmony to end the tuneful derision.
Though just as melodic, the sense of discombobulation and musical brinksmanship taken by the churning and slightly lysergic “Hoover Dam,” which sees Mould standing on the edge “on the centerline / Right between two states of mind,” is more fully realized by the hear-the-colors see-the-sounds “Slick.” Starting with the click-clacks of a roller-coaster as events seem to subsequently descend into a sonic Boschian E-ticket ride, Mould describes a tragic turn of events as he asks, “Don't you know how it feels / When you're driving your dreams / Through a pole?”
Perhaps a clue comes in the harrowing and propulsive “The Slim,” whose rhythmic repetition and thrust only serve to inculcate the refrain that “I'm left behind / Left behind I'm left behind…”
Back to square one - or at least track one: “Another big explosion / Leaving you hoping...”