It’s fair to say that FU:EL, Sugar’s third LP, is the least well regarded of their trilogy of LPs but I’m not going to agree with Uncut which described the record as the “disappointing swansong”.
OK, if you look at it in comparison to both ‘Copper Blue’ and ‘Beaster’, it’s not quite as good. Whereas these two records seemed slightly ahead of the wave, FU:EL feels a little too much like it’s been influenced by the grunge explosion.
And to be fair the sequencing of the record rather invites comparisons to the debut starting with a heavy riffing opener, busting straight into a slightly lighter song followed by the lead single. Truth is nothing on the first side of FU:EL would displace any song from the first side of ‘Copper Blue.
But that’s no disgrace and in terms of Bob Mould’s post Husker Du work, FU:EL certainly resides comfortably in the top half.
And whilst they may not entirely face off on equal terms with their CB opposite numbers, the likes of ‘Gift’, ‘Company Book’, ‘Gee Angel’, ‘Panama City Motel’ and ‘Believe What You’re Saying’ are all excellent.
There’s half a dozen b-sides on the 1st CD, 5 of which are separate songs (the 6th is a remix of ‘Believe …’) and just like for ‘Copper Blue’ the quality of material that didn’t make the record is impressive. Three or four of these five songs could easily have fitted on the parent LP. Even allowing for the intention to put some of the acoustic material on the second side of the album to differentiate it from ‘Copper Blue’ it’s still a wonder that ‘Granny Cool’ made the cut ahead of the brilliant ‘Going Home’ (up and coming bands looking for an obscure cover – this is the one!)
The deluxe packaging follows the same format as ‘Copper Blue’ including a full live concert on a second CD. And just like its parent LP, ‘The Joke Is Always On Us, Sometimes’ comes a little short of the equivalent disc in the CB package. It still contains an impressive range of material as there’s no fewer than seven songs that never made it to any of the 3 LPs including the otherwise unreleased ‘After All The Roads Have Lead To Nowhere’ and, (for the second live LP in a row) ‘Running Out of Time’. Pretty much essential for all Sugar fans then (who didn’t manage to get a copy with early copies of the ‘Besides’ US compilation) even if there’s nothing at all from ‘Beaster’ in the set.
The third disk is a DVD but there’s nothing here to eclipse the four live tracks on the ‘Beaster’ DVD – the FU:EL DVD has the 3 promos for the singles alongside an MTV news feature and a performance by Bob and Lou Barlow of ‘Believe What You’re Saying’.
The accompanying booklet however is probably the most interesting of the series as it deals not just with the troubled recording of the LP (which saw the initial version completely scrapped) but also the band’s break-up. The latter features right up to date interviews in which Malcolm Travis seems to have finally forgiven his bandmates for the way in which he wasn’t told that the band was over. In fact Malcolm comes across in the booklet as one sound chap.
A final thought then. Sure, it’s not as good as the previous two records but it’s slightly dodgy rep is pretty much an accident of time. I firmly believe that had FU:EL been the first Sugar album it would have been nearly as rapturously received as ‘Copper Blue’ and the band would only have been seen to have gone on to greater things. Buy it in all good record shops or online.
Don’t think I’d seen this before …