Bob Mould has always worked best in power trio mode. After his iconic Minneapolis punk band Hüsker Dü fizzled out 1988, he spent a few years as a solo artist, releasing the well-regarded, acoustic oriented Workbook in 1989 and the louder but less successful Black Sheets of Rain in 1990. Released from his contract with Virgin Records and inspired by Nirvana’s Nevermind, Mould found himself wanting to make noisy guitar pop again. He recorded demos which led to him signing to independent labels Creation Records in the UK and Rykodisc in North America. Recruiting bassist David Barbe and drummer Malcolm Travis to help record the album, he ended up forming a new band and while at at diner in Athens, GA, looking at the table’s container of sugar packets, they came up with their name.
With their roaring, punk-injected guitar pop sound, Sugar were definitely a more natural fit with a label of noisemakers like Creation (home to My Bloody Valentine and Ride) than Rykodisc (who were mainly known for being the first CD-only label). In any case, Sugar’s classic debut album, released September 4, 1992, is one of that year’s best, with Mould’s signature mix of rippers (“Changes,” “A Good Idea”), pop songs (“Helpless,” “If I Can’t Change Your Mind”) and even a little prog (“Hoover Dam”). Copper Blue was actually more of a hit across the pond first, reaching #10 in the UK album charts and getting named the Best Album of 1992 by NME; the record really caught on with American alt-rock radio and MTV in 1993.
Sugar burned bright and hot, releasing Beaster (recorded during the same sessions as Copper Blue) a mere six months later, yet flamed out during sessions for their second album. Still, Copper Blue remains one of Mould’s best collection of songs. It’s a perfect record.
You can get Copper Blue and Beaster together as one deluxe double-LP set in the BrooklynVegan shop. Listen to Copper Blue, and watch the videos for its singles, below.