Sugarcult - Palm Trees and Power Lines (Cover Artwork)


Palm Trees and Power Lines (2004)


Sugarcult played around the Los Angeles area for a while, putting out independent releases before releasing their somewhat-major label debut, Start Static in the fall of 2001. The debut was a jangly, punchy, poppy collection of power pop (or pop-punk to some) songs with energetic riffs, sharp hooks and youthful energy. The band than toured, toured and toured with the likes of Less Than Jake, Unwritten Law, Mest as well as doing some of their own shows. They grew to have a reputation of partying hard (yep, they do what they like and like what they do). In fact, the drummer was ousted from the band because of unspecified substance abuse problems. Still, the band went on, gaining more and more fans in each city they visited and the CD went on to sell 300,000 copies.

Now, in 2004, Sugarcult returns with Palm Trees and Power Lines. You can tell that singer/guitarist/songwriter Tim Pagnotta has been feeling the sting of the road and the ride that Sugarcult has had over the past 2-3 years. Gone is the sunny power-pop vibe that made Start Static such a fun listen to. The songs are more dense, serious and are often slower. However, that doesn't mean the disc is lacking. Tracks like "She's The Blade" and the excellent first single "Memory" recall some elements of Start Static but focus more on melody than cranking the amps to 11. Slower tunes like "Counting Stars" and "Back To California" show how Pagnotta has grown as a songwriter and that he is not afraid to show more than one side of himself. Some even rock harder than Start Static ("Destination Anywhere", "It's Over").

This is a reaction of the band after being on the road for a long time. They want to be taken seriously. They've learned from their mistakes. They've learned that they want to break away from the "pop-punk scene" (I hate that word, scene, but I couldn't think of a better one) and stand on their own feet.

Now, this isn't a perfect record. Some of the tracks don't quite click ("What You Say" sounds like a great to attempt to make a retro-sounding punk song but just sounds awkward). Nevertheless, this is a great album, great melodies, great hooks, tight band, etc. Maybe elitist punks won't like it, but who cares about them anyway? This is the sound of a band pushing themselves forward while ocassionally looking back and wondering if they took the right path.