Every self-respecting alt. rock fan should have a copy of Sugar’s sublime Copper Blue album in their collection, but frontman Bob Mould’s vast back catalogue is littered with other treasures from across the decades.
For completists and those after a crash course, this autumn sees the release of a huge, 24-CD anthology box set of all of his post-Hüsker Dü material, including live albums and rarities. Even more enticing, though, is this eight-LP vinyl set, the first of four.
The seven-year time span it covers, 1989-1995, was ludicrously fertile, kicking off with Workbook, a delicate, folk-tinged solo debut that not only stood as a reaction against the punky bluster of Hüsker Dü, but also, in See A Little Light, revealed what an ingenious melody writer Mould is. By the mid-90s, bands like R.E.M. had taken its blueprint to the masses. Its follow-up, Black Sheets Of Rain, took a heavier turn, but it’s the Sugar albums here that really strike gold.
Slotting right into the gunge maelstrom thanks to their inky riffs and sometimes embittered lyrics, Sugar simultaneously stood apart, thanks to the timeless, breathtaking, pop-perfect songwriting on Copper Blue’s Hoover Dam and If I Can’t Change Your Mind.
While the follow-up EP, the taut Beaster, and Sugar’s swansong, the rather unfocused File Under: Easy Listening, couldn’t quite match its majesty, the latter still features some of their finest moments.
Add Besides, a compilation of Sugar B-sides, and Distortion Plus, a disc of rarities and collaborations from the time, including a duet with Throwing Muses called Dio that sounds like everyone involved was having a right laugh, and you have a very fine argument for putting all of your musical eggs into the same basket.