Sugar‘s debut album, Copper Blue is a fusion of metal and melody, full of joyful noise and irresistible poppy compositions.
Sugar is Bob Mould‘s follow-up to Hüsker Dü, and you can hear the logical progression from tunes like “Makes No Sense At All” to Copper Blue. But Copper Blue is a little bit better produced and cleaner sounding, but still with plenty of rough edges left on for folks who don’t like it too clean.
“A Good Idea” leads off with a thunderous and simple bass figure, and adds layers of guitar, drums, and vocals in an ascent to sonic mayhem. The album goes straight from there to “Changes,” which starts off with a high-pitched guitar assault that’s like an ice pick to the eardrum… but in a good way.
“Changes” devolves briefly to a bit of guitar feedback that could be an outtake from My Bloody Valentine‘s Loveless. Then, with that little palate cleanser out of the way, Sugar launches back into the fray with “Helpless.”
“Hoover Dam” adds keyboards (it almost sounds like a harpsichord) and has a baroque feel to it that sets it apart from the first four tracks on the album. It’s got a trippy intro, backwards guitar, and you’ll notice that Mould’s vocals are ever-so-slightly nudged towards the front on this one.
“The Slim” is a primal wail, about someone who’s lost a lover to AIDS. “The chances seemed so slim” he recriminates, angry and mourning simultaneously. It’s the most intense song on the album, and that’s saying something.
As if to let off a little pressure, “If I Can’t Change Your Mind” leads off with acoustic guitar and an almost peppy cadence. There’s honest-to-goodness harmonizing and everything here, and an almost Beatlesque guitar solo. The tempo is no less aggressive, but the rest of the song is as poppy as it gets.
“Slick” is a more plodding, even thicker wall of sound with guitars so thick you’d need a jaws of life to pry yourself out of them. Again, though, Sugar doesn’t sacrifice melody to kicking ass.
Copper Blue has held up well indeed, to the extent that Mould played the album in its entirety on his 2012 tour to celebrate its 20th anniversary. (Sadly, I did not manage to catch this tour.) It pairs quite well with going to the gym, driving, writing, and any time one needs a strong push. If you managed to miss it the first time around, you’ll want to rectify that as quickly as possible.