File Under: Easy Listening

Sugar

Rykodisc Records, 1994

REVIEW BY: Sean McCarthy

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 06/09/1998

Note to the reader: The opinions of the writers on this site belong strictly to the writers. While a few discrepancies may erupt between the writers, there is a mutual respect of each writer's opinion on this site.

On that note... Dear Bob-Why the hell did you give Copper Blue a C+ last year?! Arguably, Copper Blue was one of the pop gems of the 1990s. It showed Bob Mould totally rejuvinated. He had a very capable band to back up his power, a band talented enough to give Mould's old band, Husker Du, a run for their money.

Now, much of Mr. Pierce's criticism of Sugar's Copper Blue album is quite evident on their next album, File Under: Easy Listening. Maybe Mr. Pierce may have listened to this album instead. I mean, it's an easy error to do. Most Sugar albums look the same from the side, same font, same packaging, everything.

Unfortunately, Sugar will forever have a C+ batting average on this site. File Under: Easy Listening is a good display of Mould's pop talent, but it is a stifling record to listen to. Where Mould and his band went wrong is anyone's guess. It turned out that my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 File Under: Easy Listening was the last full-studio release by Sugar. Its overwhelming "average" feel crushes any expectation of the talent this band truely possessed.

It's no surprise that Sugar only lasted two albums. Mould was never an artist to stay in place. But Sugar gave Mould something that he genuinely needed:an edgy counterpart. Mould may have hated Grant Hart in Husker Du, but dammit, he needed him to make the band one of the best alternative/college bands in the 1980s. Mould got this counterpart with David Barbe in Sugar. His brief, tight bass burst matched perfectly with Mould's traditional buzzsaw guitar attack.

Sadly, by the time File Under: Easy Listening came out, it sounded like Mould wanted things to sound his way, not letting Barbe and drummer Malcom Travis have their say. It's sort of like what happened to the Smashing Pumpkins during their Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness recording sessions when Corgan basically threw his hands up and the band members and said, "Fuck it! If you can't play the instrument the way I want you to, I'll play the damn thing myself!"

Mould didn't go that far, but most of the songs on File Under: Easy Listening sound so pedestrian. Mould's lyrics can still feel like you dived into a thorn bush, but the music just isn't as towering as it was on Copper Blue. A few exceptions are noted in File Under: Easy Listening. The longing, bobbing sound of "What You Want It To Be" and the great guitar work on "I Can't Help You Anymore" still make this album a better buy than most of the wannabe alternative shit out there today.

Mould even gets happy on "Gee Angel" and "Granny Cool". But that happiness must not have come from being in the band. A nice irony, "Explode And Make Up", closes File Under: Easy Listening. Which is excaactly what the band did, except for the "make up" part.

Mould has released a self-titled solo album since Sugar broke up. It was panned by critics, but at least he was trying to establish a new sound. With File Under: Easy Listening, Mould sounded like he was treading water. It is no wonder I saw File Under: Easy Listening in the discount bins at the local record store. Not that you can't get a good album in those bins, but File Under: Easy Listening sounds like the generic brand of Copper Blue. Hopefully, Mould will get another chance to match that album's brilliance in the next decade.

Rating: C+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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© 1998 Sean McCarthy and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Rykodisc Records, and is used for informational purposes only.