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Sugar - Copper Blue / Beaster / File Under: Easy Listening [reissues] (Cover Artwork)

Sugar

Sugar: Copper Blue / Beaster / File Under: Easy Listening [reissues]Copper Blue / Beaster / File Under: Easy Listening [reissues] (2012)
Merge Records

Reviewer Rating: 4
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Contributed by: JeloneJelone
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Hüsker Dü will always loom largest in Bob Mould's discography. They released a wealth of material, toured constantly and just so happened to be the best hardcore band of the '80s. Also, their records stayed in print, which helps. But if you've read his autobiography, See a Little Light: The Trail of Rage and Melody, then you know that Bob Mould is A) really proud of his work but B) not one for nostalgia. It's because of this fine line that he's been able to stay artistically active, which is probably why it's taken so long for his second most famous band, Sugar, to see their discography re-released. Dude's got a new record due in September, but Merge Records is here with a reminder of where he's been.

Sugar's complete run is split between two sets: The first is a triple disc collection featuring full-length debut Copper Blue, the EP Beaster and a live set from around that time. Again, if you've read Mould's autobiography, you know that this is the material Mould is proudest of. While there is a second set, collecting Sugar's final release, File Under: Easy Listening, as well as another live show, it can't compare to the thrill of Copper Blue and Beaster back to back.

Part of what makes Mould a compelling songwriter is his willingness to explore contemporary music. While Copper Blue's noise-pop is hinted at on Hüsker Dü's major label releases, albums like My Bloody Valentine's Loveless and Pixies' Doolittle provide just as much context for what went into the record. Copper Blue is, without question, a perfect album. Despite coming out during the grunge boom and the '90s loudness wars, it holds up quite well 20 years later. Mould's penchant for swirling pop tunes takes a few notes from shoegaze and indie rock, and it's fascinating to hear him pull hooks out of the noise. What's even more fascinating is that, when he walked away from Hüsker Dü, Mould walked away from that style as well, essentially reinventing himself for Sugar. "If I Can't Change Your Mind" is a huge departure from what was at the time his established m.o. It's also a monstrously poppy tune that still caters to the college rock crowd, so much so that a second, solo version is included here, as well as three other rarities.

Copper Blue announced Mould's new direction; Beaster took one step back towards Hüsker Dü. It's hardly derivative, however, trading Copper Blue's pop ambitions for more noise and darker imagery. It isn't exactly Zen Arcade, but it does prove that Mould could still go loud, and gloriously so. The two releases complement each other well, perhaps owing to their overlapping histories. Merge is essentially doing a public service by re-releasing these two.

That said, Merge and Mould could have just cut the live material in favor of releasing all three studio efforts in one set. While both collections are decently priced, the concerts remain superfluous. Well recorded, but hardly necessary.

Then again, F.U.E.L. isn't exactly essential either. It's a solid alt rock record, especially with those strong bonus tracks, but coming off the one-two punch of Copper Blue and Beaster, it feels rote. Mould himself acknowledges such feelings in his book, as studio time yielded nothing the first time around. While Sugar broke up because of their intense touring schedule, you can hear the exhaustion setting in here. The record packs some catchy tunes ("Panama City Motel," "Gee Angel"), but the spirit just isn't the same. Sugar ultimately burned out quickly after this one, but their brief discography overall ranks among the best of '90s rock. While the F.U.E.L. reissue is probably best left to die hards, the Copper Blue/Beaster set is essential listening.

 

 
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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
NattyBoh (August 3, 2012)

Copper Blue stands up against anything Husker Du ever released. Fact.

elliot (August 3, 2012)

I will check that out, thank you!

Also, I went and listened to all three Sugar records in one day, and while I have to agree that Copper Blue is probably the all-around best record, I still love FUEL more than anything. It's all sentimental for me.

greg0rb (August 2, 2012)

Well then, you, sir, need to listen to the latest episode of Punknews podcast "Two Gregs One Podcast". We discuss Metal Circus.

elliot (August 1, 2012)

Metal Circus might actually be my favorite Husker record, right behind Zen Arcade.

jelone (July 31, 2012)

I try not engage, but ya'll best leave Candy Apple Grey alone.

Michael_Berryman (July 31, 2012)

score is for A Good Idea and Slick. best songs ever.

SloaneDaley (July 31, 2012)

Echos get the fuck out of hear with your shit podunk taste in music.

MN_DrNick (July 31, 2012)

Fuck off, Echos....

EchosMyron (July 31, 2012)

"That said, Merge and Mould could have just cut the live material in favor of releasing all three studio efforts in one set. While both collections are decently priced, the concerts remain superfluous. Well recorded, but hardly necessary."

Or they could have included DVDs featuring various Sugar concerts with each release, like Matador did with those awesome Mission of Burma reissues.

EchosMyron (July 31, 2012)

That`s because you are clueless or just a dipshit contrarian. Lemme guess, Candy Apple Grey is your favorite Husker Du album.

elliot (July 31, 2012)

I really didn't have any idea that everyone and their mother says Copper Blue is Sugar's best record. I have always loved FUEL way more than Copper Blue, but that might be due to the summer I was a Domino's delivery guy, and I obsessively listened to a cassette of FUEL that I bought at Goodwill for a dollar. Those songs are so ingrained within me that it's hard to put either Copper Blue or Beaster above FUEL. I do love Beaster, but it has those goofy keyboards, so no. And Copper Blue is really good too, but I dunno...maybe I need to go back and seriously evaluate my life.

xchemicalx (July 31, 2012)

Love this record. Got the reissue set on vinyl yesterday and it looks and sounds fantastic.

Banger (July 31, 2012)

File Under Easy Listening is absolutely essential. I was a little disappointed with FUEL when it first came out, but I have grown to love that album, even more than Beaster. Copper Blue is still the best, though.

Score is for the original releases, as I haven't heard the reissues yet.

r3vengetherapy (July 31, 2012)

Classics. File Under Easy Listening is not bad by any means, but it does pale in comparison. But taken on its own and put up against a lot of the stuff released at the time, it's a good record.

EchosMyron (July 31, 2012)

Copper Blue is very good, but they never were able to match it.

MN_DrNick (July 31, 2012)

Classics.

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