This Melody Maker background article on Sugar appeared in the same issue
(08 Aug 1992) as the
review of the first London show, shortly
after the band signed with Creation. Written by Andrew Mueller. Photo credit
missing, at least from this photocopy (as is Malcolm's face), but is likely owed
to Michael Lavine.
"Ha! Really though, I think Creation's quite a label. I think there's|
quite a cast of characters over there, musically and in the office. I'm
really excited about it. I've had so many problems, and finally I think
we're going to get a shot at being heard by the right people.
A FEW hundred of the right people, about teo-thirds capacity
maybe, turn up at a club called Bogart's that night to see Sugar. Or,
given that none of them can realistically have heard anything by them,
to see what the bloke out of Husker Du who sang "Wishing Well" is
doing these days. It's not a bad roll-up on faith alone. Earlier, I'd asked
Bob if he was getting bothered much by people shouting for old stuff.
"Nah," he said. "We don't give 'em any time." He wasn't kidding.
Sugar spring from the throat from the off and hardly pause for breath in
the next hour. It is, as promised, all new and all if you take each song
on its own substantial merits pretty great. The songs are drawn from
the September album "Copper Blue" and from its follow-up,
apparently already near completion and if "If I Can't Change Your
Mind" isn't the most glorious, unabashed, catch-me-if-you-can pop
song since "Friday I'm In Love", I'll wear a daft hat. And on top of all
that, it's even more obvious tonight than from the record that Mould's
patented tidal powerchord, the guitar that launched a thousand hairy
wannabes and a minor revolution in pop music, is back and bigger
Despite all this and more, a couple of disgruntled Du fans in
Cleveland had, so the story goes, asked for their money back.
So what happened?
"Our roadie got 'em with the super-soaker, ha-ha..."
A few hours previously, I'd also asked Bob where he saw the
differences between SUgar and his two previous incarnations. "This
batch of stuff," he said, "is easily the most optimisticI've ever written. And
it's not as intensely personal, so I think it's more immediate."
When I suggest that "Copper Blue" is more of a pop record than
anything he's done before, he nods in immediate agreement.
"Definitely. It's a different chemistry. And now that David's bringing
songs to the deal, that's going to change my songwriting and
everything else. The next album is going to be a lot darker, though, so
don't get too carried away on the pop thing, will you."
SO Bob Mould, his uniquely mighty guitar and his raging tormented
pop sensibility are back, and it's nothing but great to
have him around. His new band are perfectly named sweet, crunchy
and vital. A neat statement of intent.
"Oh, no, it's nothing as clever as that. It just sort of fell on us when we
were trying to think of album titles. Sugar is a funny word and a word you
see everywhere. But there's no real intent there, none at all. It makes
good copy I guess. People's headlines are always fun."
Big Rock Candy Mountain.
Sugar's debut single, 'Changes', is available now on Creation
"I DON'T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT ANYMORE,
except when people bring it up. Which," he sighs, "is
nearly all the time,"
The only thing harder than creating a legend is living up
IDEALLY, none of it should matter. Ideally, I should be
allowed to afford Bob Mould the pleasure and relief of
an interview unconcerned with Husker Du, his first band,
the Eighties Minneapolis trio who blazed the trail for
Nineties rock'n'roll to follow. Ideally, we should be able
to get on with talking about his new band, Sugar also a
screaming guitars-on-fire three-piece and their fine
forthcoming debut album, "Copper Blue". Ideally, we
should be seeing Bob Mould in dawn's new light, from a
fresh, uncluttered viewpoint.
But watch MTV for 10 minutes. Listen to rock radio in
America, Europe, anywhere. Try clubs from Seattle to
Camden. Cast an eye over the Billboard listings. Bob
Mould, though yet to have a hit album of his own, is
everywhere, and the context in which he's about to
launch his new project has been informed and defined to
a staggering extent by the legacy of his first. So his past
matters, here, now and today. Because if Sugar hits, and
however much Bob may disagree, it'll also count as
Husker Du's first success. The prodigal son returns.
"Yeah,: he shrugs. "I'm starting to find that. And since it
is a three-piece, people do really want to peg this as
Husker Du revisited. But whenI put this together last year,
Nirvana weren't happening, y'know? Shit happens. Oh,
I hear it, I do. And I know Nirvana admit to it. And, yeah,
I think it's cool. But," he hastens to add, uncommonly
modest for a milestone, "it wasn't just Husker Du. It was
The Minutemen, Black Flag, Meat Puppets, Circle Jerks. I
think it may have a lot to do with the fact that Husker Du
were kind of the first to start and the last to quit."
The fact remains, however, that of all the above, it's
Mould who was closest to becoming the past decade's
Alex Chilton figure an icon of musical influence and
commercial indifference who'd walk like a ghost among
the following generations, unseen but tangible,
unknown but ineffably famous. Certainly Mould seemed
The difference is that rather than going barking mad and waiting|
20 years for his own Teenage Fanclub (which isn't to infer copyism,
just a transfer and re-application of the spirit), Mould's done it
himself. World, meet Sugar.
SUGAR, as we have learned, are three. Aside from Bob, there's
drummer Malcolm Travis, a former member of The Zulus, and bass
player/vocalist David Barbe, late of Mercyland, who will also be
bringing songs of his own to Sugar. The three of them are gathered
in Bob's vast ("I don't believe this. I've never stayed anywhere like
this") room in Cincinnati's Vernon Manor Hotel. The in-room
brochure says that previous tenants have included The Beatles, John
F Kennedy and Nancy Reagan.
Malcolm is taciturn in the way of most drummers who aren't in Lush,
while David is more forthcoming in his excitement about this new
project. Bob does most of the talking, but only, one suspects, because
I ask him most of the questions. An obvious line seems to be the one
about needing a band identity again after four or five years as a solo
apparition, a name in front of backing musicians.
"Well," begins Bob. "It came out of the last thing... and that was
never even close to being a band. I tried and tried and tried to get that
to be more like a band, where peole would have made constructive
rather than destructive input... but it never really got that way.
"Then, after I did the solo acoustic tour last year, I felt like I was in a
position to start working with people again. I think the shroud of
Husker Du was finally laid to rest, and people who wanted to were
able to hear those songs for what was probably the last time. So
having personally cleared the slate, it just seemed like a good idea
to get some people together." Possibly as important for Bob was
finding new people in a business sense. Husker Du's two last (and
best) albums, "Candy Apple Grey" and "Warehouse: Songs And
Stories" were appallingly ill-served by Warners and are now, in an
act of artistic and commercial idiocy, deleted in the UK. And as for
what Virgin did (or, rather, didn't) with his solo stuff here and
abroad, Bob could fill volumes. So Sugar will go through feisty indie
Ryko in the US and Creation in the UK.
There, you'd have thought, is one roster of guitar-blasters that really
will make Bob feel like a grandfather.
"Naw," he laughs. "Come on, I'm only 31."
You know what I mean.
"Well, Alan McGee did say that I'd influenced ever band he'd
signed. I'm just grateful he was interested."
Maybe he thinks it'd be cheaper to bag you and Chilton and sack
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