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Sugar – File Under: Easy Listening

Rykodisc Records, 1994

Aside from the usual mainstream failures from various decades that I constantly see exiled to dollar bins everywhere, this disc is one that always seems to catch my eye because there is usually at least one copy available for peanuts at all music stores. It certainly doesn’t wow me with its cover design, which is putridly boring (though perhaps intentionally so given the title). Nope, it’s the fact that Bob Mould of Husker Du was running his solo show with this record that I have known to be a rather enjoyable mid-level rock record. Truth is, not many people these days do or are willing to take a chance on such an unfortunate-looking record. Therefore, I felt it was my music blog writing duty to write something up about this veteran dollar bin resident.

As a fan of Husker Du, I’ve always liked their sometimes poppy but usually noisy repertoire.  When Bob Mould formed Sugar after the demise of that group he opted to go a bit lighter and less chaotic than his former band.  After the relative success of “Copper Blue”, this record continues his foray in catchy pop rock tunes with his usual strength of lyric writing.  Even though Mould’s voice has virtually no style and almost sounds as if he’d rather let the instruments drown him out (which usually happens anyway), it has a nice low level to it so that songs like “Gift” can gradually build in volume from under him without it feeling sudden.  It’s almost as if Mould’s somewhat monotone singing provides the constant while everything else interweaves around him.  Given the fact that people tend to like brazen volume in much of today’s rock acts, this facet of the band may not appeal to everyone and could make some deem it all a bit boring.

Along with “Gift”, there are many great songs on this record that everyone should give a spin at some point.  “Gee Angel” is a fantastic rocker describing what seems to be a love-shocked Mould trying to keep up with his deep appreciation of his love interest.  Then there’s the pining, somewhat stalking “Your Favorite Thing” that has one of the more inviting, colorful riffs I’ve heard from any song.  The bouncy “Can’t Help You Anymore” is quite the mirage in tone after one gives a listen to the opening lines of “I can’t help you anymore/you can’t hurt me anymore”, which is another example of a song that Mould tends to pull off on these Sugar records using contrasting impressions.  The last song, “Explode and Make Up”, is wonderfully titled and sounds subtly volatile about what you might expect.  In fact, I would say that this song sounds like something Mould would have emotionally sung while still in Husker Du, so it’s a great ending to a very good album.

There are a few songs from this record, as well as others, on Grooveshark: Sugar

Listening to this now, I can hear why this record may not have been as popular as it could have been at the time when it was released.  In the midst of the grunge and power rock of the time, Sugar was a band that might have been played as a lighter buffer between harder songs on the radio.  However, even though many songs on “File Under..” have the elements necessary to wrap up listeners in a candied feeling of enjoyment, Sugar was not a flashy, edgy or bombastic enough band to garner the attention that some other big bands were getting.  This might have been one reason why the group disbanded and Mould went truly solo after this record.  Reading around a little more, apparently the record company pressed too many copies of this album expecting it to be a major seller but failed to market it well, thus the glut of copies lying in dollar bins everywhere. There is likely little chance that every copy will eventually be purchased by bargain hunters like us, so we might as well just do what the title says and stick this disc between Celine Dion and Kenny G whenever we find a copy of it. Maybe those easy listeners will finally dig this stuff as much as we do.

Categories: Bargain Tags: , , , ,
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  1. July 5, 2010 at 9:53 am

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