Sometimes I See You In The Water

Back to Bob Mould to end the week. In 1992 Bob formed Sugar with Dave Barbe and Malcolm Travis. His first two solo albums- Workbook and Black Sheets Of Rain- hadn’t sold well and Virgin let him go. Back in a trio and released from his record contract Bob found a rich vein of form, working out of R.E.M.’s rehearsal room in Athens, Georgia and within the year Sugar played live, recorded two albums and signed to Creation in the UK (then on the crest of a post-Screamadelica, Bandwagonesque and Loveless wave). The first album, Copper Blue, came out and was an immediate hit, album of the year in the NME and spawned several singles.

Copper Blue doesn’t have a weak moment, showcasing ten first rate Bob Mould songs. The production is fuller than it was with Husker Du, the drums and bass bigger and chuggier. The guitars fill up more space, crunchy and melodic. In the wake of Nirvana’s success there was a crowd ready for more punk with choruses and suddenly Sugar found an audience. A year earlier Bob couldn’t get arrested. The second song- A Good Idea- is a tale of two lovers down by the river, on a warm summer night where ‘the air is thick with the smell of temptation’. They go in to the water at his suggestion- ‘why don’t we lay in the water? Let the water run over me…’ he says and she replies ‘that’s a good idea’.  Inevitable tragedy ensues, she submerged beneath the surface, temptation turning to death by drowning.

A Good Idea

Come Around

I wrote a piece for The Vinyl Villain’s Imaginary Compilation album series, ten Husker Du songs to brighten up your life. It’s here. I also found this, a remastered version of Zen Arcade’s opening song. The Youtube poster who put it up had done the new version himself, brought the bass up and balanced out Spot’s trebly mix. A very good job done.

Something I Learned Today

At around the same time a friend reminded me of Bob’s 90s band Sugar and their 1993 ep Beaster. Having signed to Creation and got some genuine success with Copper Blue they put out Beaster as a follow up The six songs on Beaster were recorded at the same time as Copper Blue but stand out as distinctively different- the guitars are heavier and denser. Very dense. Like other Bob Mould records (like Zen Arcade) Beaster was a kind of concept record and had a lot of religious imagery. Opener Come Around comes around slowly with bright acoustic guitar but then the Les Paul and Marshall stack kicks in, along with Bob’s deliberately difficult to make out vocals.

Come Around

Sugar And Mould

Brian at Linear Tracking Lives is counting down his top hundred songs of the 1990s and included a song by Bob Mould’s post-Husker Du power trio Sugar, off their final lp FUEL (File Under Easy Listening). Round these parts Copper Blue is the Sugar album to go to, brilliant from start to finish, but Brian did send me back to FUEL and this song which I always loved. Your Favourite Thing has one of those masterly, fluid Bob Mould guitar riffs that he can knock out in his sleep but other guitarists can only dream of.

Your Favourite Thing

>I’m On The Centreline, Right Between Two States Of Mind

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The other half of Husker Du’s songwriters was Bob Mould, who had the more successful solo career. Sugar hit the big time with Copper Blue (on Creation in the early 90s), Workbook and a string of solo abums sold well and were highly rated, he took time out to write WWF scripts for TV (wrestling not wildife), and he did some housey electronic stuff (which bamboozled some of his fans). Recent interviews suggest he’s mellowed a bit from the slightly dour figure he was. I like Bob Mould even if some of his solo albums can be hard work.

This is Hoover Dam, from Copper Blue- full of crunching guitar, melodrama and some strangely cheesy 80s keyboards. Turn it up.