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"Standing On The Edge of The Hoover Dam. . ."
July 24, 2012 8:06 PM   Subscribe

Sugar's catalog has been remastered and reissued: "Mould laid down the roots of modern indie rock in the ’80s with his band Hüsker Dü. The fiery dirty punk torch Hüsker Dü ignited was passed to Nirvana, among other newly anointed grunge bands that flamed bright in the early ’90s musical revolution. Nirvana then passed the torch right back to Mould who infused his new band, Sugar, with a grunge-inflected pop punk sound scarcely heard before 1992, the year that Copper Blue was initially unleashed on the public."

Bob Mould has had three distinct phases to his musical career -- the seminal punk/hardcore/semi-psychedelic act Husker Du, a vibrant and on-going solo career, and in the 1990's a short-lived trio called Sugar. Sugar actually had some minor hits, but some fans were divided over the power pop direction Mould took after the thrashing intensity of Husker.

Sugar recorded two albums -- Copper Blue (1992) and a troubled follow-up, File Under: Easy Listening (1994). In between was the "demanding" Beaster EP (1993), which eschewed the Copper Blue's polish for some truly intense sonic assaults.

Youtubery:

Copper Blue (1992):
"The Act We Act"
"A Good Idea"
"Changes"
"Helpless"
"Hoover Dam"
"The Slim" (Bob Mould Band live)
"If I Can't Change Your Mind"
"Fortune Teller"
"Slick"
"Man On The Moon"

Some tracks from the uncompromising Beaster EP (1993):
"Judas Cradle"
"Tilted"
"JC Auto"

And some tracks from FU:EL (1994), which even according to Bob is spotty, but some great tracks are there:
"Gift"
"Gee Angel"
"Your Favorite Thing"
"Believe What You're Saying"
"Explode And Make Up"
posted by bardic (85 comments total) 40 users marked this as a favorite

 
"Helpless" is the best goddamn song in the entire world.
posted by Lucinda at 8:09 PM on July 24, 2012 [12 favorites]


Yes, I remember Copper Blue and Beaster. I had just come out of a dark of my life when I was listening to extremely crappy music, and the year 1992 marked really a turning point in my life (discovering weed and the campus radio station also helped). Bob Mould was part of that.

I'm pretty sure Greg Norton and Grant Hart deserve equal billing with Bob Mould in terms of who "owned" Husker Du"
posted by KokuRyu at 8:12 PM on July 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


Now, can someone please do the same to the Husker back catalogue, especially anything engineered/produced by Spot? I would pay some serious coin for a remastered Zen Arcade or New Day Rising.
posted by tim_in_oz at 8:25 PM on July 24, 2012 [7 favorites]


Copper Blue is one of my favorite albums ever. "A Good Idea" and "Hoover Dam" are just perfect.
posted by lalex at 8:26 PM on July 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


I would pay some serious coin for a remastered Zen Arcade or New Day Rising.

I would chip in for having them left the fuck alone.
posted by Egg Shen at 8:27 PM on July 24, 2012 [7 favorites]


"can someone please do the same to the Husker back catalogue"

No because Greg Ginn is a dick.
posted by bardic at 8:30 PM on July 24, 2012


Just quickly re-listening to these songs, I'm reminded that Bob Mould is a bad-ass guitarist.
posted by elmer benson at 8:40 PM on July 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is a choice quote from the Greg Ginn thread:

I don't think it's unfortunate. Would you want someone to 'remaster' the Mona Lisa because Leonardo didn't have glow in the dark paint or something?
posted by KokuRyu at 8:41 PM on July 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


"A Good Idea" is the best Pixies song that the Pixies never wrote or recorded.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 8:46 PM on July 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


Man, between this post and the Dismemberment Plan post, today has been a ridiculous flashback to the 90s...
posted by fikri at 8:46 PM on July 24, 2012


In the key of G, I play a C9 chord (x 3 x 0 3 x) exclusively because I learned to play listening to Sugar records. I just realized that.
posted by elmer benson at 8:51 PM on July 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yes! A Sugar FPP.
My deluxe vinyl reissues were supposed to be here today but I guess I gotta settle for tomorrow.
Love these records far, far more than his Husker stuff (which I also love)
Furthermore, Workbook and Black Sheets of Rain need to be amongst your playlists nowly.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 8:51 PM on July 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Also if you are a heavy lifting lad in the gym as I sometimes be, Beaster is your friend.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 8:52 PM on July 24, 2012


Oh man, why did I not know about Beaster back when I was a Soundgarden-listening 15-year-old?

It's like what you'd get if you took Superunknown and subtracted out all the let's-pretend-we're-Black-Sabbath bits! (This is a good thing!)
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:57 PM on July 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yes. "Titled" is an iron-balled motherfucker.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 9:01 PM on July 24, 2012


"Tilted". Stupid phone.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 9:01 PM on July 24, 2012


The first mixtape I ever received from a girl contained 'Hoover Dam' alongside songs by the likes of the Fall and Nick Cave. I met the girl at a Dead Milkmen show shortly before she got kicked out of private school for being too much to handle and I recently was made aware of the unfortunate news that she's no longer among the living. Finding this out broke my heart in a way it's never been broken before, a detatched and empty break that felt like it happened long before it actually did. I still have that first 1994 tape she made for me, though, and I've been putting off listening to it. This post has inspired me to give it a whirl first thing tomorrow morning. It should be an interesting day.
posted by item at 9:09 PM on July 24, 2012 [6 favorites]


One of my favorite memories of working at Rykodisc as a wee bairn is when Bob Mould came into the office to deliver the master of Last Dog & Pony Show. As a 20-year-old fanboy, I was so intimidated by his divine presence that I recall crouching into my desk as he walked by.

I know one isn't supposed to challenge the divine reign of the Hüskers, but I've always loved and played Sugar's records more. Even the much-maligned FU:EL.
posted by mykescipark at 9:15 PM on July 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


The problem with Bob Mould/Sugar, and even a lot of later Hüsker Dü, is that nothing can top Land Speed Record. Everything Falls Apart, Zen Arcade and New Day Rising came close. Hart and Norton kept Mould lively. After those guys, what is there to look forward to? A listless, monochromatic dotage; the predictable decline of the do you remember.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 9:20 PM on July 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


nothing can top Land Speed Record

I will grant you the immortal "Bricklayer":

Brick out the window, top of the head
Brick on the head, cause you're a fuckhead

posted by mykescipark at 9:26 PM on July 24, 2012


As a 20-year-old fanboy, I was so intimidated by his divine presence that I recall crouching into my desk as he walked by.

Hell, I (a 40-something fan girl) had the same experience last week when he paid for his purchases at my cash register. Wasn't sure it was him until I saw his customer card, then I threw a major deeply internalized freakout. He was super nice; possibly one of the most polite customers I've ever had the pleasure of assisting.
posted by echolalia67 at 9:28 PM on July 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


I would pay some serious coin for a remastered Zen Arcade or New Day Rising.

I would chip in for having them left the fuck alone.


Yeah, those albums were recorded over a weekend in one or two takes per song with incompetent production, and that's how they're supposed to sound. You couldn't really remaster much anyway, they're too badly recorded to begin with. And we like them that way! Zen Arcade wouldn't be nearly as powerful with glossy production.

If something could be done for Flip Your Wig, though, that'd be OK, because that album is so badly produced it's hard to listen to.
posted by DecemberBoy at 9:33 PM on July 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


nothing can top Land Speed Record

Really? That's like the worst "I only like their first album" ever. You're serious? I mean, it's like half joke songs.
posted by DecemberBoy at 9:35 PM on July 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'll take "Higher amount of good songs" over "subjective perceived integrity" every time.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 9:39 PM on July 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Copper Blue is just such a fucking perfect album. It makes me feel old that it was 20 years ago this month (this week, in the UK, if I remember right) it came out, but I still listen to it probably more regularly than any other album I bought that summer.

There's just not a bum note on it. A Good Idea is basically a huge, friendly fuck-you taunt to everyone who owed Hüsker Dü a debt. You want a deafening pop song about a murder, a drowning, which goes quiet/loud/quiet/LOUD? With a big, rumbling bassline and an ending that's sheared off like a geological fault? Yeah, THIS is how you do it, Black Francis, and I'm even going to steal your bassline to do so. (Payback, perhaps, for that old Pixies ad asking for a bassist "into Hüsker Dü, and Peter, Paul & Mary".) And the way that Changes just switches halfway through from this barrelling roll down a hill into a long, drawn out dirge, before that queasy synth at the end is snapped in half by the snare roll intro to Helpless. Then there's The Slim, which is just about as bleak as it gets. I was only 14 when the album came out, and this was way before Mould discussed his personal life in detail, so I didn't know that The Slim was a nickname for Aids, but I knew it was a big, empty pit of loss Mould was singing into. I've never worked out whether it was genius or just pragmatism to follow it with If I Can't Change Your Mind, which is the best melancholy, bright-eyed bit of despair this side of prime Beach Boys.

Oh, and took me until about two years ago to get that joke in Hoover Dam: "standing on the centreline, right between two states of mind", though to be fair the nearest I've been to it is Chicago.

Blame turning 35 in a couple of weeks, feeling a bit mopey and having had a fairly shitty time of it of late, but I've been digging into lots of old stuff recently, much of which I haven't listened to in a long, long time. (Still jaw-dropping: Levitation's Need For Not; even better: Bark Psychosis' Hex.) Copper Blue, though (and Beaster, though it's more of a brilliant, cathartic, gruelling slog, and it's still just about the most intense half an hour of music that I own and listen to on a semi-regular basis), I've never stopped listening to. It was Sugar that got me to hunt down Mould's back catalogue – solo and with Hüsker Dü – as a 14 year old music obsessive, and while I still love all of it, with a particular fondness for Zen Arcade ("the whole thing took about 85 hours, the last 40 straight for mixing"), it's still Copper Blue that crawls up my spine.

On preview:

DecemberBoy: Zen Arcade wouldn't be nearly as powerful with glossy production.

Agreed. It's an album written and recorded by 23-year-olds off their tits on cheap speed, closeted alienation, and existential despair. It's supposed to sound like it was recorded in a tin bath, which is one of the many reasons I love it.
posted by Len at 10:01 PM on July 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


The post link to "A Good Idea" is unavailable in the U.S., here's one that works. This song haunted thirteen-year-old me for months!
posted by lalex at 10:02 PM on July 24, 2012


Senor Cardgage: Yes. "Tilted" is an iron-balled motherfucker.

It surely is, but it's JC Auto that nails you to the floor. It just weighs so fucking much.
posted by Len at 10:17 PM on July 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


It surely is, but it's JC Auto that nails you to the floor. It just weighs so fucking much.

That whole album is just like a solid slab of pissed-off power. It's hard to believe it's even the same band that did Copper Blue, much less that it's from the same sessions. I wish they'd had time to develop that side of the band before.

I don't get the dislike for FU:EL, I actually like that one better than Copper Blue. Probably because I played it so much when it came out, I have a lot more memories associated with it. Copper Blue is probably an objectively better record.
posted by DecemberBoy at 10:23 PM on July 24, 2012


before more
posted by DecemberBoy at 10:24 PM on July 24, 2012


After listening to more of Beaster it's less like Soundgarden-minus-Sabbath — and more like discovering that the Foo Fighters had somehow managed to record a decent album after all, and resisted the urge to polish and produce and focus-group it into total flaccidity, and then they'd just quietly put it in a box and left it somewhere and gotten on with being famous.

I mean, that's totally ass-backwards; it's obvious that the Foo Fighters were imitating this and not vice versa. But still, wow. This is the Ideal Platonic Form behind the dreck on the radio that I loved beyond all reason when I was 13. That's sort of mindblowing.
posted by nebulawindphone at 10:29 PM on July 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


DecemberBoy: It's hard to believe it's even the same band that did Copper Blue, much less that it's from the same sessions.

I thought the same when Beaster came out but more recently, I've kind of changed my mind. Yes, it's for the most part angrier and more brutal than Copper Blue, but I could imagine Mould, having already recorded, say, Fortune Teller and Slick, deciding "right, that's angry, but what I really want is rage and venom" and coming up with the three-song sledgehammer that is Tilted/Judas Cradle/JC Auto. And Felling Better, actually, which is much, much more bitter than its lyrical sentiments and floaty synth parts suggest on the surface.

I wish they'd had time to develop that side of the band more
Oh, god, what I wouldn't have given for them to have done this.
posted by Len at 10:32 PM on July 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't really have much to add to the conversation but to say this about Copper Blue:

It was often just what I needed to hear, and it was often just what I needed to say.
posted by chimaera at 10:44 PM on July 24, 2012 [6 favorites]


"A Good Idea" is the best Pixies song that the Pixies never wrote or recorded.


Holy shit; I thought this exact same thing like two days ago.


But then... I know, Weezer, but... "The Sweater Song". And how about "Seven Nation Army"? I think "Seven Nation Army" might actually be the best Pixies song that the Pixies never wrote or recorded.
posted by mr_roboto at 11:00 PM on July 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


If the Pixies had recorded Seven Nation Army, it would probably have turned out pretty decent.

As is, I can't stand that song. I only really like the White Stripes when they're doing perfectly good Velvet Underground songs that the Velvet Underground never got around to recording.
posted by nebulawindphone at 11:06 PM on July 24, 2012


If anyone else is feeling nostalgic for 80s/90s modern rock...when I was growing up in the NYC suburbs, we had the great modern rock radio station 92.7 WDRE (later WLIR) that played Sugar and all of its label/genre mates.

They also had a weekly feature called "Shriek of the Week" where listeners voted for songs.

Whenever I crave music from my own delightfully misspent youth, I go straight to this amazing list of Shriek of the Week winners spanning 1980 - 1997 (it's chronological and super old-school HTMLy, so scroll down).
posted by lalex at 11:26 PM on July 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


I spent a year painting to a rediscovered copy of Copper Blue a few years ago. A mix of okay to shitty paintings, but surpringly fond memories. Thanks for this.
posted by smirkette at 12:19 AM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


File Under Easy Listening is underrated. I used to see it in used CD bins all the time, and always wondered what was wrong with the people who sold it.
posted by dortmunder at 3:47 AM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


And how about "Seven Nation Army"? I think "Seven Nation Army" might actually be the best Pixies song that the Pixies never wrote or recorded.

I saw Tigercats last week and I couldn't put my finger on who they sounded like - a bit Orange Juice, but a bit rock? A London Pixies?This is far better live, much much more shouty, but it's very Pixies-like.
posted by mippy at 4:22 AM on July 25, 2012


I absolutely love Copper Blue, but couldn't get into Husker Du and was underwhelmed by File Under. I also like Workbook and Black Sheets of Rain. For even the stuff that doesn't grab me as much as CB, I greatly admire Mould for the fact that he could easily have done just the same thing over and over but hasn't. It may have cost him some "fans" but at least he's still got his soul.
posted by Legomancer at 5:11 AM on July 25, 2012


Excellent. Serious question - am I the only one that thinks "Amusement" might be Mould's best song? I wanted to tell him that when I met him years ago but I was too much of a fanboy to say anything other than "thank you for helping me through some tough times."
posted by playertobenamedlater at 5:36 AM on July 25, 2012


Here is a great video of Bob Mould doing Hoover Dam.
posted by maggiemaggie at 5:40 AM on July 25, 2012


Really? That's like the worst "I only like their first album" ever. You're serious? I mean, it's like half joke songs.

That's marvelous! A wonderful takedown, really.

I like all their albums, except for Candy Apple Grey. Too many acoustic dirges and why-oh-whys. A harbinger of things to come. But I love the energy of that first album. I think Bob Mould's influence on the songwriting process grew along with Hart's drug problem, and some amount of creative tension was lost. This may point to why I'm not such a Mould/Sugar fan.

The truth is, The Living End is my other favorite Hüsker Dü album. Maybe it's a matter of liking them more, the greater their distance from the studio.

But this is a Mould thread, so I'll stop ruffling feathers before I inspire another clever cutdown.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 5:50 AM on July 25, 2012


I don't have anything particularly informed or acid-tinged to say, but I love these albums and never really stopped listening to them. Yay, Bob!
posted by wenestvedt at 5:53 AM on July 25, 2012


am I the only one that thinks "Amusement" might be Mould's best song?

That honor goes to either "Wishing Well" or "Hoover Dam" for me.
posted by mykescipark at 6:02 AM on July 25, 2012


I didn't really like Beaster at first — it was too dark, angry and lacked Copper Blue's polish. But Beaster has grown on me with time. FUEL, I think is underrated. And Copper Blue is timeless.
posted by quidividi at 6:12 AM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


In retrospect, I was late to the Sugar bandwagon.

I was 16. My mom and brother and I were living with her parents, and her parents frequently got me involved in their petty squabbles with her. My first boyfriend had not merely broken my heart but more or less left me for dead in the woods between the highway and his house. (Note: This is not a metaphor.) When the school year started, my mom suggested I get a job so I didn't just mope around the house after school. So I got a position as a counter jockey at the Strawberries over by Wellington Station.

One of our regular customers was a Tufts student who didn't realize there were better record stores closer to his campus. His taste in music could be called eclectic -- every couple of weeks he'd come in and buy things in genres I didn't even know we carried. He made fun of me because I listened almost exclusively to show tunes and Tori Amos. (Because, Soundgarden.)

At one point he came in and was going on and on about this great band Sugar, who were playing Avalon in a few weeks. He said that even though I was only listening to older music, he thought I might like them. In the stack of CDs he bought that day, there was a copy of the Sugar album Copper Blue.

"I thought you already had this one," I said.

"This one's a gift."

I bagged up his purchase and handed it over the counter to him, and he took the copy of Copper Blue out of the bag and handed it to me. "I think you'll like this," he said. "It's angst you can pogo to."

I was moved by his generosity, and took the copy of Sunday in the Park with George out of my discman and slapped that in at the end of the night. The album completely blew me away. I had so much pent-up rage with which I couldn't do anything, and that album summed up all the anger I had and made it into something perfect.

A few weeks later, I had somehow scored a fake ID and a comp ticket to the Sugar show. There was something magic about that fake ID, since I ended up getting it confiscated at the next show I attended. It seems like that Sugar show was meant to be. I just remember standing at the front of the balcony like a figurehead on the ship, absorbing the waves of sound coming off the speakers.

A few years later, I took a job as a barista at the Coffee Connection at Downtown Crossing, a block down from the Orpheum and across the street from a Baybank. One of my fellow clerks and I were going to the Sugar show that night and were cranking FUEL in preparation. A vaguely familiar looking tall bald man came in, looked at our menu, and said to us in a pleading voice, "Do you just have coffee?"

I saw him nodding along with the music we were playing. "Good band," he said.

"Are you going to see them tonight?"

"Nah, I gotta work."

He paid for his coffee and left. And of course we got to the show that night and realized that we'd gotten coffee for Bob Mould.
posted by pxe2000 at 6:33 AM on July 25, 2012 [23 favorites]


Turns out I have "File Under Easy Listening" on my iPod, and I listened to it on my walk this morning. That's great stuff!
posted by thelonius at 6:56 AM on July 25, 2012


It's nice to see Mould getting some well-deserved love here on the blue. His guitar work was so influential, it's crazy. On a tangent: anybody else ever hear Vic Bondi's band, Jones Very's album "Words and Days"? It always seemed to me like that album came closest of anything that came after to recreating the raw awesomeness of Mould's earlier output. Bondi worked with Mould on some of his work with Articles of Faith, so there was likely some direct influence there.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:01 AM on July 25, 2012


Ok metafilter, this isn't the first album you've made me go back and re-evaluate an album. Copper Blue is where I got off the Bob Mould bandwagon. I had seen Husker Du twice at California Skate Punk shows, was a huge fan of Workbook and I've probably seen him solo a half dozen times. I have met him and had actual conversations about music and stuff during Husker's peak (New Day Rising) and immediate aftermath, and he's congenial but seems to disdain dorky fanboy bullshit like this article. Black Sheets of Rain just seemed phoned in, although I liked a couple of songs and his touring band was tight. Copper Blue came out and I couldn't be bothered, it sounded like every other indie pop band with a little Bob Mould flavor. When I was ripping all our CDs to MP3, I didn't waste the time with Copper Blue, so I need to go digging through the basement to find it, although I suppose I could shell out more money for the *new* *improved* version that this somewhat hyperbolic article is encouraging me to do. I will report back my findings and impressions, because I know it is a question of immense importance to the community.

So, in conclusion: sucks, favorite band, etc.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 7:21 AM on July 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Me, I love a good dorky fanboy bullshit Sugar thread. The superlatives laid on Copper Blue are a bit much sometimes, but it is an excellent album start-to-finish and does capture the early 90's zeitgeist pretty well. Sugar didn't come across my radar until a dorm neighbor had File Under: Easy Listening in heavy rotation. When that got under my skin, I borrowed my roommate's copies of Copper Blue and Beaster and spent the next 3-4 years listening to Sugar constantly.

I think it was a matter of perfect-place-and-time for me; although in a happy relationship with my then-girlfriend (now wife), I was still carrying around some leftover high school angst that was looking for an outlet. The pop structure combined with the huge, layered sound and dark/melancholy themes was new to me, and apparently just what I needed at the time.

I've never understood why Beaster always gets shrugged off for being too raw/dark/heavy. That's why it's so good. It's a sledgehammer of an album, over way too soon. It was the perfect soundtrack for Rochester's long, cold, lake-effect winters.

As recently as a couple of years ago I would see remaindered copies of File Under: Easy Listening in dollar stores, and have to fight the urge to buy them all to save them from their fate.

Of course, by the time I became a huge fan, Sugar had already broken up. I still lament not having seen them live. Bob is a great solo performer, and I saw him with a band on The Last Dog and Pony Show tour, but it wasn't quite the same. I am super-psyched to have tickets to see the "Bob Mould Plays Copper Blue & Silver Age" tour in September.

Not listed in the OP but another must-have is Besides, which was a collection of B-sides and outtakes released after they split up. The first 25,000 copies included a bonus live CD called The Joke is Always On Us, Sometimes. Finally, if you can find a copy of the bonus disc that came with the limited/special edition of Body of Song in 2005, the track Surveyors and Cranes is (IMO) the best thing Bob has recorded since Sugar broke up.
posted by usonian at 8:20 AM on July 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm pretty sure the entire contents of Besides are included across these two reissues.
posted by mykescipark at 8:25 AM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Joke is Always On Us, Sometimes has two great live cuts - one of "Explode and Makeup" that I must have played over and over again a zillion times driving to high school and "After all the roads have lead to nowhere", the very first song I figured out by myself on guitar. I never really cared for the production on the Sugar studio albums and had a hard time getting into them as a result, but those live cuts on The Joke is Always... were really powerful.
posted by playertobenamedlater at 8:43 AM on July 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Friends who were lucky enough (those dicks) to see Sugar play live all say the same thing: loudest show they have ever seen.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 9:04 AM on July 25, 2012


The Joke is Always On Us, Sometimes has two great live cuts - one of "Explode and Makeup"

Yeah, Mould's guitar sounds like it's going to melt by the end of that thing, it's nuts.
posted by COBRA! at 9:11 AM on July 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


I know of Bob, and Sugar, and Husker, and my wife loves him. I myself have never heard a Sugar song, let alone album.

Putting "Copper Blue" on now, let's see what we get.
posted by Cosine at 9:40 AM on July 25, 2012


Senor Cardgage: Friends who were lucky enough (those dicks) to see Sugar play live all say the same thing: loudest show they have ever seen.

Sorry for this. I saw them in Glasgow back in 1994 – 17, drunk, first week of university, with a girl I'd just met the day before – and my ears rang for about two days afterwards. They played at the Barrowland, a famed Glasgow gig venue with a sprung-loaded wooden dancefloor which is routinely cited by touring bands as one of their favourite venues in the world, even though/perhaps because it's a slightly down at heel old dancehall with decor from the 1960s, but which, when full with 1800 people, has an atmosphere like few other places. I've seen god knows how many bands play there over the years. The only band who came close to matching Sugar's volume were Sonic Youth. The only band who were louder were My Bloody Valentine, but not by much.
posted by Len at 10:12 AM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


mykescipark: Brick out the window, top of the head
Brick on the head, cause you're a fuckhead


I love Mould's (rarely seen) playful side. That lyric above reminds me of this fun somewhat demented mindloop earwig snippet from the brilliant New Day Rising LP:

How to Skin a Cat:

Now get this, we feed the rats to cats,
and the cats to the rats and we get the cat skins for nothing.
We feed the rats to the cats and the cats to the rats
and we get the cat skins for nothing.



Words to live by I think...


Now get this...

we feed the cats to the rats

and the rats to the cats

and we get the cat skins...


for nothing...

posted by Skygazer at 10:15 AM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


The only band who came close to matching Sugar's volume were Sonic Youth. The only band who were louder were My Bloody Valentine, but not by much.

Christ, saw Ted Leo last month, so loud that despite earplugs we had to leave, crazy.
posted by Cosine at 10:27 AM on July 25, 2012


Mogwai is still the loudest band I've ever seen. Even with serious 20db filtering earplugs I decided to bail.
posted by playertobenamedlater at 10:31 AM on July 25, 2012


Finally, finally, Amazon sold me the MP3 for "Your Favorite Thing" yesterday. It's all the Sugar I know; must look into Copper Blue and Beaster.
posted by Rash at 10:39 AM on July 25, 2012


The first discs (non-live) of the new remasters are available on Spotify.
posted by stratastar at 10:53 AM on July 25, 2012


I have seen Husker Du, Bob Mould, MBV, Mogwai, Sonic Youth, each more than once, and it's not even close: MBV. Sugar and Ted Leo notwithstanding, it's doubtful I will get to continue my objective experiments on the matter as, despite having normal hearing now, I feel that I have pushed my luck sufficiently
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 12:58 PM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


For me, Black Sheets of Rain is sound of hitting rock bottom.
posted by vibrotronica at 1:08 PM on July 25, 2012


Beaster is my favorite-ever Bob jam. Pure scorch and amazing pop hooks on "Feeling Better"
posted by porn in the woods at 3:44 PM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


unfortunately, Kevin Shields has seen a taste of his own medicine...

Saw Sonic Youth live in 2002 and I was a bit underwhelmed, to be honest.
posted by mippy at 3:50 PM on July 25, 2012


I will report back my findings and impressions, because I know it is a question of immense importance to the community.

Ah, the sound of 1992, when all those Budweiser posters started appearing at my favorite clubs, and all our rock heroes started to sound the same.

I gave it another fair listen on my run today and I probably just would have shrugged it off as not my cup of tea and not bothered to come back and take a dump in this thread, but seriously, this is some really mediocre shit. I had to put on Zen Arcade just to wash the taste out of my ears. This album has not aged well.

I realize everyone's teen angst is different and different music resonates with different people, but how can one be moved by Copper Blue and then not be much, much more moved by the older Husker Du stuff? Mould's guitar sound and vocal snarl might sound angry, but a 40 hour recording session of pure uncensored rage and disillusionment, mostly first takes and screaming is much closer to the source. It's not like the catalog of old stuff isn't deep enough to satisfy. I just don't get the admiration for the newer stuff.

In summary, I give Copper Blue one and a half mehs out of five.

posted by Slarty Bartfast at 5:58 PM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Slim is one of my favorite, dark-place, songs. It just builds and builds and the sadness just keeps coming in waves. Great post, thanks!
posted by zerobyproxy at 6:51 PM on July 25, 2012


I saw Sugar perform in a little club in Sheffield or Leeds, I forget where. The ceiling plaster started collapsing on us as they played. One of the loudest and most awesome nights of my life. Great post bardic!
posted by arcticseal at 7:20 PM on July 25, 2012


"how can one be moved by Copper Blue and then not be much, much more moved by the older Husker Du stuff?"

This is the central question, but what's amazing about Bob Mould is that you really don't have to pick one over the other. Husker is awesome-sauce. Sugar kind of pissed a lot of people off for going "pop" (Beaster is, IMO, Bob telling the haters to go fuck themselves) but in 2012 there's no reason for the two entities to peacefully co-exist.

And then there's Bob's solo stuff, which is a whole 'nother layer to the cake that is Husker-Bob solo-Sugar-Bob solo amazing-ness.

Can't say I like his electronica stuff though, not my bag.

Also, Gibson Flying V: Fender Strat :: Husker Du:Sugar.

Discuss.
posted by bardic at 7:25 PM on July 25, 2012


Len: "Bark Psychosis' Hex"

Len, for a brief second, I had you tagged from my mate from secondary school :)
That album is mindblowing.
posted by arcticseal at 7:32 PM on July 25, 2012


I'd seen Husker, Sonic Youth, MBV, Dinosaur Jr. blah blah blah etc...I saw frickin'g every band there was to see, I think MBV cheated on the loudness thing, because I know everyone's thinking of the extended psychout they'd do for 30 or 40 (35 Mins in NYC. It was torture, most of the audience left.) minutes during the Loveless tour.

I think Husker takes it just for sheer energy, but I thought Motorhead were louder, so there that.

There was one album Sugar put out that had a Godhead guitar sound, just hard and distorted, but gorgeous, for whatever reason though, I can't remember exactly, I really thought they were somewhat forgettable though, and it seemed like Mould kinda wanting to be a Creation band (MBV's label as well), and I liked many of the bands on that label, but it seemed to trendy and lightweight for the great Bob Mould, after Husker, everything he's done has simply seemed like a side project to me.

For good or bad, Husker Du will be forever the brilliant band I will think him a part of and SST will be his true record label.

Not to forgive whatever stupidity Ginn is pulling with that label these days....
posted by Skygazer at 7:39 PM on July 25, 2012


Also, Gibson Flying V: Fender Strat :: Husker Du:Sugar.

Discuss.
posted by bardic


I'm actually pretty sure Mould was playing an Ibanez Flying V knockoff during the Husker years. I was actually kind of crushed when I first learned about it... but really, it actually seems about right for Husker Du.
posted by COBRA! at 7:43 PM on July 25, 2012


Back again, that live version of the Slim is stunning. The depths plumbed with just that one song...
posted by arcticseal at 7:56 PM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was seventeen when it came out and like many of you who were new to Bob Mould at the time, I was also introduced by way of the video of "Helpless" on "120 Minutes" or "Alternative Nation". I tend to have a romantic wave of seeing that time: I was in my senior year of high school and the whole world was in front of me while the alternative music scene was taking off. Copper Blue, along with Loveless, Gish, Broken and Automatic for the People were all albums that were like a currency between me and my friends of our shared experience of that time. Thank you Bob Mould, for such a perfect set of albums at a perfect time.
posted by Chocomog at 7:59 PM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hey Chocomog!
Stop being me, you jerk!
posted by Senor Cardgage at 10:49 PM on July 25, 2012


I realize everyone's teen angst is different and different music resonates with different people, but how can one be moved by Copper Blue and then not be much, much more moved by the older Husker Du stuff? Mould's guitar sound and vocal snarl might sound angry, but a 40 hour recording session of pure uncensored rage and disillusionment, mostly first takes and screaming is much closer to the source. It's not like the catalog of old stuff isn't deep enough to satisfy. I just don't get the admiration for the newer stuff.

For me it's because I didn't come to either as a teen. By the time I found both, loud snarly "pure uncensored rage" didn't do anything for me.
posted by Legomancer at 5:47 AM on July 26, 2012


Slarty Bartfast: I realize everyone's teen angst is different and different music resonates with different people, but how can one be moved by Copper Blue and then not be much, much more moved by the older Husker Du stuff? Mould's guitar sound and vocal snarl might sound angry, but a 40 hour recording session of pure uncensored rage and disillusionment, mostly first takes and screaming is much closer to the source.

I've been thinking about this since I first read it last night, and I think, in at least one important way, it's right. Zen Arcade is pure and uncensored, and for that reason it's a direct channel into something – or, in your words, it' much closer to the source. It's the sound of people struggling to contain forces they don't really understand; or maybe a better way of putting it is that it's the sound of people trying to capture something that is so primal and wild that it's never going to be nailed down. But it's their fearlessness in trying to do so which makes Zen such an achievement. It's hormones and fear and alienation and the growing realisation that this world you're growing up in – this world that your parents assured you was yours for the taking, was a bright and brilliant place full of wonder and magic – is, in fact, a seething, corrupt and broken mess, and any promises made to the contrary are bullshit of the highest order.

Copper Blue is different. For a start, yes, it's not nearly as angry, but I think that's for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it's an album by a man a decade older than the one who wrote half of Zen Arcade. And you can see (or hear) the toll that decade has taken. Secondly – and this is related to the first point – If Zen Arcade is all about the violent shock that comes when you realise the fix is in, in terms of capitalist society's empty promises to youth, then Copper Blue is all about the many ways in which individuals can fail in their own obligations: how they fuck up relationships, how their failings manifest themselves.

It's an album of guilt. It's about the games we play in relationships, and the convenient fictions we tell each other as those relationships first falter, then crumble, then collapse. Both Zen Arcade and Copper Blue are ultimately albums that revolve around vulnerability: the former is about how fragile and alone you can feel in the chaos of the modern world; the latter is much more about how intimacy and self-reflection can open you up like a wound. In so many of the songs on Copper Blue, the identities adopted by the narrator and the interlocuter become toxic and dangerous, if not masochistic and – in the case of A Good Idea – murderous.

Take Slick, for example: setting aside the notion of car crash as metaphor for failing relationship for a moment, its narrated by a drunk in the moments leading up to, and the horrible aftermath of, a car crash, which leaves him paralysed and mute in a hospital bed, fed by a nurse whose name he doesn't know, hooked up to machines keeping him alive when he'd rather someone, anyone, would just pull the fucking plug. It's the sound of a man who knows all this is his own fault – that self-destructive behaviour is all fine and well in the pursuit of romantic, fucked-up myth, but not so great when you take it to its logical conclusion. Or look at The Slim, in which the very act of opening yourself up to someone you love becomes an inevitable slide into grief and anger at the one you love as you watch them die before your eyes, leaving only their breath on your pillow. These are not the songs of a young man struggling to articulate his rage at the world. They're songs by, and about, a man who is almost consumed whole by the disappointment, guilt and anger of failing to live up to who he thinks he is, or can, or should, be.

That doesn't mean Copper Blue is better than Zen Arcade; it's just a different album. I love them both dearly, but for vastly different reasons.
posted by Len at 6:22 AM on July 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


COBRA!: I'm actually pretty sure Mould was playing an Ibanez Flying V knockoff during the Husker years. I was actually kind of crushed when I first learned about it... but really, it actually seems about right for Husker Du.

Ibanez was making some excellent Fender knock-offs at the time (1980 to maybe 1987?). I played an Ibanez Stratocaster at the time whose quality and electronics easily matched the U.S. made Fender Strats.

I think their beginners "Squire" type knock-offs were the cheapo quality ones...but I think even those were better than the true Fender Squire line (entry level models of the classic guitar Fender models for beginners).

And Mould was definitely the first person I saw playing one outside of some bad metal band, that made me re-think the coolness of that kind of punk rock irony.
posted by Skygazer at 6:22 AM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Mogwai is still the loudest band I've ever seen.

You're all wrong. Oneida can be heard from outer-space.
posted by saulgoodman at 6:23 AM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I guess I've always thought of Sugar as Bob Mould Lite, but even Bob Mould Lite is a pretty satisfying brew. "Black Sheets of Rain" was probably where I stopped buying his stuff regularly, but I always had in back of mind to give Sugar more of a chance, so this post is really appreciated.
posted by saulgoodman at 6:26 AM on July 26, 2012


but how can one be moved by Copper Blue and then not be much, much more moved by the older Husker Du stuff?
The biggest reason for me is the unlistenably shitty production of their studio recordings. I don't buy the "it's raw, that's how it's supposed to sound" defense... That huge (yet raw) sound on The Living End, *that's* what their records could have (should have) sounded like. Instead, the only artifacts we have are muddy, tinny tracks with no mid-range, drums that sound like farts and barely-audible bass. Bob wrote some amazing songs in the Hüsker Dü days, but those records just sound so distractingly terrible that I don't listen to them very often.
posted by usonian at 6:45 AM on July 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


I dunno. I'm really not sure this would sound as good if it sounded good. Maybe I'm just so used to that thin trebly sound on it, but I swear that's my favorite thing about the song. It sounds like some shitty band with cheap gear practicing in their uncle's garage and then SUDDENLY THE HOLY SPIRIT DESCENDS IN A RAY OF LIGHT. And that really is the point of the track for me. Anyone can record a song that sounds like a big-name rock star getting carried up into the clouds at the end of the night. Transcendence in the middle of the afternoon on an audibly low budget is a bit more interesting.

Then again, I used to think I felt that way about the Mountain Goats, and now I like the well-produced stuff better. So who knows?
posted by nebulawindphone at 12:01 PM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


That doesn't mean Copper Blue is better than Zen Arcade; it's just a different album. I love them both dearly, but for vastly different reasons.

Thanks for the thoughtful comments.

The biggest reason for me is the unlistenably shitty production of their studio recordings.

I've often wondered how this album would sound if the recording quality had been better, or even if it were remastered at this point. They maintained a similar trebly sound all through their career, even after the switch to Warner Brothers, although to a lesser degree on Warehouse, so one would presume this was a very conscious decision, and they are given production credits on all their albums. Maybe they just didn't know what they were doing? I don't know that I buy the notion that this would have diluted the raw energy of these recordings if you could hear the deeper chest thumping tones of all three instruments. I always find myself stretching to recall the live sound when I listen to Zen Arcade and the recordings feel a bit incomplete or wanting. Maybe that's the conscious decision. But I would like to hear a comparison someday. Heresy, I know.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 9:33 PM on July 26, 2012


I've also wondered about the trebly sound even after the jump to WB, given how much better Workbook and everything after sounds. Was it deliberate, was it inexperience, or the influence of uncredited producers?

Production makes such a dramatic difference; if you've ever heard Failure's albums Magnified or Fantastic Planet (production credited to the band, but I believe mostly done by Ken Andrews), the sound of their first album Comfort (produced by Steve Albini) is such an awkward mismatch, a square peg being jammed into a round hole.
posted by usonian at 8:37 AM on July 27, 2012


Everyone involved in this thread has probably already heard it by now, but just in case - the first single from The Silver Age is out: The Descent. I haven't been this guardedly excited about a new record in a long time.
posted by usonian at 5:00 PM on August 7, 2012


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