Picks and Pans Review: Copper Blue

UPDATED 11/16/1992 at 01:00 AM EST Originally published 11/16/1992 at 01:00 AM EST

Sugar

This debut album rose quickly to the top of the alternative-music charts, and no wonder. The first impression Copper Blue makes is that of a record swarming with tantalizing influences and similarities to earlier indie-rock by bands like Nirvana, the Pixies and Teenage Fanclub. After further listening, the virtues of the album begin to seem entirely its own: This is lithe, loud, remarkably tight rock that threatens to explode the confines of structure and sense but never quite does, thereby creating a tremendously exciting tension.

It's surprising to find an '80s vet like Bob Mould behind such a fresh start. As guitarist and singer for the prolific Minneapolis thrash-pop trio Hiisker Du, Mould presided over a forced march of productivity that resulted in nine records in six years. And then, following the breakup of the band, he released two solo records in quick succession. Last year he teamed up with bassist David Barbe and drummer Malcolm Travis to form a new trio, Sugar.

Although Mould wrote' all the songs, this is foremost a group. Barbe and Travis are a relentless, propulsive rhythm section, providing an ideal undercarriage for Mould's guitar attack, which builds on repealing lines and subtle harmonic progressions. Mould sings with a kind of constricted twang, and the lyrics hang back in the mix (many of the songs describe frustrating waking nightmares). But the success of this music derives from the total wall of sound: ferocious and controlled, hard-core and pop, and altogether satisfying. (Rykodisc)

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