Sugar - Copper Blue - Review
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critics' view

The music and influence of the pioneering Minneapolis hardcore band Hüsker Dü was investigated brilliantly in Michael Azerrad’s 2001 book on the 80s alternative underground, Our Band Could Be Your Life. But for Bob Mould, Hüsker Dü was his life – and going on the stories, tales of financial penury, addiction and interminable band squabbling, it was a pretty miserable existence

His work with Sugar – the power trio he formed in 1992, four years after Hüsker Dü’s demise – feel like an attempt to wash away the angst of the post-punk years, to try on a sunny expression and see how it felt. And while Sugar were themselves short-lived, their music, particularly that collected on excellent debut album Copper Blue, sounded like salvation.

Copper Blue hit it big, selling hundreds of thousands of copies and scoring NME’s 1992 Album of the Year. In part, this was down to timing. The alternative rock movement that Hüsker Dü helped usher in was booming, thanks to the stratospheric success of Nirvana’s Nevermind. But Copper Blue also contains some of Mould’s brightest, most brilliant writing.

Subject-wise, it is not exactly light: the Pixies-esque A Good Idea is the tale of a man who drowns his lover, and The Slim recounts the death of a friend from AIDS. But the arrangements froth with melodies, gold-plated choruses stretch out a mile, and an expanded instrumental palette – witness the synthesisers and harpsichords that adorn the lilting, 60s-tinged Hoover Dam – mean each song comes out gleaming with a rare lustre.

This generously expanded edition brings with it a wealth of extra material, including numerous B sides (including a fine solo mix of the breezy, acoustic If I Can’t Change Your Mind), a four-track BBC session and, on a second disc, a live set from the Cabaret Metro in Chicago.

Those that adore Copper Blue are also directed towards the following year’s Beaster EP, songs from the same sessions but of a darker hue. Similarly reissued in expanded form it presents proof that, even on sunnier days, Mould still had angst to burn.

Louis Pattison
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The BBC's album reviews ended in 2013, although the pages are archived for retrospective reading.
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