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Sugar – Beaster EP

May 5, 2011 Leave a comment

Rykodisc, 1993

This review is going to complete my trifecta of Sugar releases that I’ve obtained for a buck or less.  As a Husker Du fan I’ve had a fondness for Bob Mould’s Sugar outfit if only for the heavy, enveloping guitar he likes to inflict.  I’ve also grown to like his vocals even if they always seem to be in the background and recorded lowly.  But there’s only so much Sugar you guys may want to read about, so though I’ve already written about them here and here, I’ll finish up with “Beaster”.

It’s a short release and compiles a few of the extra songs from the “Copper Blue” time period.  Truth is, I believe that I heard this record before I heard anything else by Sugar, so my impression was that Sugar was going to be an extension of Husker Du.  That, ah, is not entirely true.  Instead, Sugar is a rock band that has more of an interest in pop and soft stuff.  Although most of their songs seem to never get really going, “Beaster” has a few numbers that really ramp up the energy.

In my opinion the best song, and I mean the BEST song by Sugar, is “Tilted”.  This song lays you out.  The song’s immediate urgency with the rapid drum intro, as well as its follow through on verse guitar noise, clearly makes it one of the best rockers I’ve ever heard from these guys.  It didn’t even make the album of “Copper Blue”!  I can’t believe it.  You should go find it and listen.

The other songs on the EP are a mixed bag.  “Come Around” is a bit meandering and, unless you like the sound of Mould’s repeated smeared take on the title, may or may not be an enjoyable song for you.  I think it ranks a few tiers below “Tilted” for me, which gives you a little foresight of how the rest of the songs go.  Well okay, “JC Auto” and “Feeling Better” are more typical Sugar songs in that they have a bouncy chorus and an impression of upbeat subject matter.  They don’t really stand out if you’ve listened to a lot of Sugar.  Finally, “Walking Away” is a prettier track that primarily features a synthesizer and really fuzzed out vocals by Mould.  It definitely sounds like an album ender, but with “Man on the Moon” as a well regarded conclusion to “Copper Blue”, this tune didn’t stand a chance.  So here it lies.

A fault that Sugar has with most these songs is that they are much too long.  Except for “Walking Away”, all songs are more than four minutes in length.  “Feeling Better”, which is the longest at 6:22, feels like it is ten minutes long.  Oof.  The worst thing a band could do is assume that their song is so good and catchy that it could just be repeated at length.  “Feeling Better”, as well as the other six minute epics of “Judas Cradle” and “JC Auto”, should have been shaved down to at most four minutes to keep the interest level.  Wasn’t Sugar aiming for more of a pop sound?  Well, they gotta go pop length too.

I’m telling you, you need to hear this song.  Found a pretty good video of it.

Although I could probably find “Copper Blue” at an affordable price these days, as well as maybe write up something else about another one of their countless EPs, I think this is it.  So I want to thank Sugar in a special way.  They have affordably given me a lot of enjoyment and I believe will do so for anyone willing to take a chance on them out of a dollar bin.  I also feel that they should get some sort of prize for their records’ glorious low prices but high rewards.

Therefore, to Sugar, I bestow the first ever Dollar Bin Lifetime Achievement Award.  You guys have fifteen seconds to make a speech.


Trapped By Mormons – Go Go Go

January 8, 2010 2 comments

TBM Records, 2003

You want a record cover, you got one!  There’s a lot going on in this sordid scene that struck my eyeballs as I thumbed through the endless rows of refuse at Amoeba Music.  For one, a half-naked asian woman is dreaming the druggy dream in a room that can be easily described as decrepit.  Shoddy walls, a dog that has been forgotten to be let out, and a soaking mop that will likely help the dog situation give off a feeling of real desperation.  And hey, check out that glaring neon light staring through the window, adding to the oppressive redness of that cramped room.  I’m not sure if there’s a message that Trapped By Mormons were trying to convey, other than that all you kids out there better listen to your mom when she says you gotta clean up your room or you could end up like this chick.  Just another piece of sound advice by mom.

Aside from the cover, I also loved the band name.  I’ve always thought Mormons to be relatively nice people regardless of whatever they believe in, but apparently these guys from Florida felt that this was the most threatening band name they could come up with.  This one and only EP from the group happens to be a live recording of the raunchy rock n roll the band enjoys serving up.  Todd Nolan mangles his way through the five songs with a sneer while relating some questionable practices to the listener.  For instance, in the excellently quick “Chinese Girls on Heroin”, Nolan contemplates the morality of having a go with a woman who is in a substance-fueled happy place.  Gotta say I’ve never really thought about this scenario, so it’s good he brought it up for debate.  He also waxes poetic in “Fez Dispenser” with the line “And every action that I shall take/Will be forward and that is hence”.  I still can’t figure that usage of ‘hence’, but then again, I am not a poetic lyrics writer.  Then there’s all sorts of colorful references to what I believe is a description of a gang bang in “The Money Shot”, so you get the idea of the crude enjoyment these guys are having onstage.  Needless to say, the EP could probably have used a “Mormon Advisory Warning” stamp on the cover just in case.

Their music can be streamed on their MySpace page, which unfortunately is missing that “Chinese Girls On Heroin” song.  Apparently the band felt they were giving the wrong idea to today’s youth and took it off.  C’mon guys, forget about the youth!

I admit that I really only picked the disc up for the novelty of it.  It didn’t matter what it sounded like since I thought the band name itself was hilarious!  Poking around their rather fiery website gives the hint that the group isn’t together any longer since the shows haven’t been updated, but at least anything and everything Trapped By Mormons is stored on the Internet for all time.  So you see, we’ve all got our own kind of cramped room on this Internet place to store our mess, and people like Trapped By Mormons and myself are busy filling up the place in the vaguest chance that you barge in sometime.

The New York Loose – Loosen Up EP

November 2, 2009 Leave a comment

Flipside Records, 1995Loosen_front

Through many years of flipping through used bins and reading music reviews, I have come to appreciate a good album cover regardless of content.  I like the simplicity of the Allman Brothers’ “Eat a Peach” as well as the mania of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ “Fever to Tell”, but I also like the literal cover of the New York Loose’s “Loosen Up” EP.  It pretty much tells you that they’re a rock band fronted by an eccentric frontwoman who is willing to go all out with her rock persona.  Check out those leggings and ah, yes.  Despite only five songs on this disc it was certainly worth a pick up to check out what excitement this band is, at least visually, implying they are bursting out with.

With vocals that rival those of the grrl bands of the day, Brijitte West growls through five tunes that are rock as promised, but aren’t necessarily the excitement as wished.  “The Desperate Hopeful” is passable but forgettable, but the title track at least adds some catchiness despite West’s unfortunate pronunciation of her “All I wanna”s throughout.  One would have to listen for oneself, but the phrases sound as if she was a seven year old having a tantrum in a toy store.  The EP’s best track, “James”, is mainly so because West decides to lay off the rock chick persona and sing a little more coherently.  It is apparent that, despite the decent (but unremarkable) musicianship of the band, it’s up to West to deliver the engaging quality for each track.  If she sounds terrible, forget it.  If she can hold it together without causing the listener to grimace, then the song turns out alright.  I present exhibit A (miss) and exhibit B (okay):

Unfortunately, this EP just doesn’t impress enough to back up the cover art or the idea of a charismatic frontwoman, but it was a good enough start. The band put out a full-length record before West joined up with Famous Monsters, and in 2007 a compilatilon of the New York Loose was released with this EP as well as other tracks. It is likely worth more of a listen than just these five tracks. Regardless of whether one likes what the New York Loose has released in any format, I imagine that if one could step back to 1995, one can see why people may have been excited about a young blonde fronting a rock band.

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