The Sugar reissue programme kicked off in the UK on Monday with the release of a deluxe edition of the trio’s debut LP – ‘Copper Blue’.
It’s fair to say that ‘Copper Blue’ is one of my favourite LPs of all time, merging the aggression of Husker Du with something more accessible.
Bob Mould originally recruited David Barbe (bass/vocals) and Malcolm Travis (drums) as backing musicians for what was supposed to be the third Bob Mould solo LP. But the band gelled so quickly and so well, behind what is probably Bob’s best set of songs to this day, that it became apparent that this was a real band.
Although the announcement of the Sugar debut single ‘Changes’ on Creation (in the UK) was comparatively low key, a buzz quickly built up around the band such that, although ‘Changes’ failed to chart in the UK, the LP went straight into the UK charts Top 10.
Listening to the remastered ‘Copper Blue’ it’s easy to understand why. It was always a great sounding LP but the remastering process has eked an extra few percent out of the sound. And what songs! It’s rare in my experience to be able to say this but pretty much every song on the record is on the money – as strong a 10 song record as I’ve ever heard and Mould very much at his peak.
In fact it’s a record that should be a benchmark for any aspiring alternative rock band. This is how you do it.
And, in terms of reissues, this is also how you do it.
Disc 1 features Copper Blue along with the other 8 contemporary studio recordings. To be fair the additional tracks are a bit of a mixed bag. You get the excellent B-sides ‘Needle Hits E’ (every bit as good as anything on the LP) and the instrumental ‘Clownmaster’ along with an acoustic mix (which highlights the harmonies) of ‘If I Can’t Change Your Mind’ (a bona fide top 30 UK hit). The runt of the litter is ‘Try Again’.
Also included is the complete BBC session recorded at the time including the previously officially unreleased version of ‘Hoover Dam’ – the other 3 tracks from the session were included on the IICYM limited edition CD single.
Disc 2 raises the ante considerably with a complete 17 song live recording from the Cabaret Metro show in Chicago on 22 July 1992. This is a blistering set which captures the band at the height of their powers. But what makes it really special is the fact that a surprising number of the songs that make up the set was never recorded in the studio.
The live shows were probably the first time that Dave Barbe’s contributions got a chance to be heard, presumably since the LP was recorded based on Bob’s initial demos. That these songs didn’t get proper studio recordings is a matter of regret as they are particularly impressive. Songs such as ‘Anyone’ and ‘Where Diamonds Are Halos’ were released as B-sides (as live recordings) but the eerie ‘Beer Commercial’ is unleashed officially for the first time.
There’s also other unreleased songs such as Bob’s frantic ‘Running Out of Time’ which sits alongside two covers – the Who’s ‘Armenia City In The Sky’ and ‘Dum Dum Boys’ (Iggy Pop). Oh, and as a bonus, there’s live versions of two tracks destined for mini-LP ‘Beaster’ – ‘Tilted’ and ‘JC Auto’ (albeit that the latter was released as a b-side to the single edit of ‘Tilted’).
It’s a concert that’s been much bootlegged but for me it’s amazing to hear this in its entirety for the first time. If you’re a Sugar fan and you haven’t heard this, you need to own it.
The release is completed with a 3rd disk, a DVD featuring promos for the 3 Rykodisk US Singles (‘Changes’, IICCYM and ‘Helpless’ substituting for the UK release of ‘A Good Idea’), a UK TV appearance of ‘Helpless’ and a couple of MTV interviews, which are both quite interesting. However in truth this disk is nice to have rather than being essential.
The package though is completed by a fascinating booklet with the story of the LP told mainly by the 3 principals.
Honestly, if you have an interest in 90’s alternative rock, you need to own this. ‘Copper Blue’ is available now in all good record shops and online.
The hit single:
Bob plays ‘Copper Blue’ in its entirety this Friday (1st June) at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire. [Tickets] He also plays a free solo show at Rough Trade East in London on Thursday (tomorrow!) at lunch-time.