For me Sugar were as close to a perfect band as you can get. Three brilliant albums, debut ‘Copper Blue’ is just about my all-time favourite LP if there is such a thing, the astonishing mini-LP ‘Beaster’ (by name and by nature) and what was to prove the swansong ‘File Under Easy Listening’. As if.
By a happy coincidence Bob Mould hit a purple patch in his songwriting just as grunge exploded in the US and Europe.
The Godfather of Grunge title bestowed on Bob at the time seemed nonsense, I simply can’t see the connection between Husker Du and grunge, but it certainly helped create a climate in which Bob’s music was in demand.
And Sugar most definitely was a band. Bassist Dave Barbe is a talented song-writer in his own right even if only a limited number of his songs were played by Sugar whilst powerhouse drummer Malcolm Travis was a vital component of the band’s sound.
The circumstances therefore conspired to propel Bob to his career commercial peak. Whilst ‘Copper Blue’ was a strong and steady seller, ‘Beaster’ actually reached Number 2 in the UK Album Chart (the grown up version, not the Indie chart) which is surely unprecedented for such a mini LP. Strange as it seems now prior to McGhee’s discovery of Oasis, Bob was Creation’s cash cow.
As well as the main LPs, there is also the ‘Besides’ compilation of non-LP tracks which illustrates the quality on offer at the time. A judicious selection of the 12 best non-live tracks would produce an LP most band would envy.
Sugar burned brightly but only comparatively briefly. FUEL took 2 attempts to get right and in its wake Mould and Barbe dissolved the band apparently without consulting Travis. Their legacy though is immense and Bob’s fondness for the material was illustrated by the fact that his last touring band played as many songs off ‘Copper Blue’ as his latest LP, ‘Body of Song’.
I wanted to post something a wee bit offbeat and considered one of the ‘Besides’ B-sides. In the end though I’ve gone for 2 versions of their most successful song, ‘If I Can’t Change Your Mind’.
The first is taken from the limited edition ‘If I Can’t Change Your Mind’ CD2 and is a session version of the single recorded for the Mark Goodier Show (which doesn’t feature on ‘Besides’). Version 2, meanwhile, is a live solo version from last year.
Sugar – If I Can’t Change Your Mind (session)
Bob Mould – If I Can’t Change Your Mind (live)
You can still thankfully buy Sugar records (here for example). In fact at time of posting there’s also a version of the LP with the extra live CD available if you REALLY want it! (And you should.)
More Sugar reviews and interviews.